Category Archives: Children

A New Year And New Beginnings

“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, ‘“The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him’” (Lamentations 3:22-24). Here we see the beauty of a new day. A new morning. New mercies awaiting us. We see that they are new every morning… thus acknowledging that we are on this journey and it’s not a one time fix all. Today is a new day! Let’s be grateful!

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35). We see in this passage that while Jesus was here on earth, even He was doing a new thing! He was teaching believers a new way of living, a new commandment, a new covenant: to love as we have been loved.

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New Beginnings Make New Endings

From: Christian Broadcasting Network

I recently saw this quote, “No one can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending” (Unknown). I really began to think about that statement. The conclusion was that we don’t start over; but we begin again right where we are, making things better in our lives.

As a believer in Christ, it is not about saying I will do this and I won’t do that and then dropping the idea or falling short. It is more about asking the Lord to help us each day, to fall deeper and deeper in love with Him. This way our focus will be set on the things of heaven and not on all this earthly stuff.

If I were to make a New Year resolution, it would be to have a deeper commitment, a deeper love, and a deeper worship for the Lord. In the beginning of this past year, He spoke to me in that still small voice in prayer and said, “I am more than enough. I am more than enough in every area of your life.” He also said to tell others the same thing.

This year I am determined to make Him my all and all. He wants our undivided attention in spite of the distractions and temptations that lie waiting around the corner. He has to be our main focus.

How we will end this year will be determined by how we started it. Did we want to get more “INTIMATE” with the lover of our soul? I looked up the word intimacy and the meaning is to be close, familiar, very personal and private.

Do you want a new ending this year? How do you want the ending of your life? If you’re not a Christian, please know that this could be the best New Year of your life. Your life can be filled with hope and peace. To know what the ending will be is an extra bonus. Why should every year be the same as the one before with nothing really changing? After all, the New Year resolutions may or may not get accomplished.

If you are a Christian and you feel stagnate in your relationship with the Lord, then now is the time to rekindle the love affair with Him. He calls us to Himself and says, “Come away my beloved.” Can you hear Him? He is tugging at your heart. The real ending in our life will be when Jesus says well done my good and faithful servant. That statement will be for someone who took the time to get to know Him, love Him, and that obediently followed Him.

 

“Peter was kept in prison: but prayer (instant and earnest prayer) was made for him” (Acts 12:5, margin).

Peter was in prison awaiting his execution. The Church had neither human power nor influence to save him. There was no earthly help, but there was help to be obtained by the way of Heaven. They gave themselves to fervent, importunate prayer. God sent His angel, who aroused Peter from sleep and led him out through the first and second wards of the prison; and when they came to the iron gate, it opened to them of its own accord, and Peter was free.

There may be some iron gate in your life that has blocked your way. Like a caged bird you have often beaten against the bars, but instead of helping, you have only had to fall back tired, exhausted and sore at heart. There is a secret for you to learn, and that is believing prayer; and when you come to the iron gate, it will open of its own accord.

How much wasted energy and sore disappointment will be saved if you will learn to pray as did the Church in the upper room! Insurmountable difficulties will disappear; adverse circumstances will prove favorable if you learn to pray, not with your own faith but with the faith of God (Mark 11:22, margin). Souls in prison have been waiting for years for the gate to open; love ones out of Christ, bound by Satan, will be set free when you pray till you definitely believe God.
–C. H. P.

Emergencies call for intense prayer. When the man becomes the prayer nothing can resist its touch. Elijah on Carmel, bowed down on the ground, with his face between his knees, that was prayer–the man himself.

No words are mentioned. Prayer can be too tense for words. The man’s whole being was in touch with God, and was set with God against the powers of evil. They couldn’t withstand such praying. There’s more of this embodied praying needed.
–The Bent-knee Time

“Groanings which cannot be uttered are often prayers which cannot be refused.”
–C. H. Spurgeon

 

Looking For God?

By: Martha Noebel, Author

As I do each year, when the New Year rolled around, I looked to see what would be said in the Christian world about the New Year. I expected to hear preachers reminding us that we are in the “Last Days.” I looked at various Web sites for articles about “The End Times” and how it related to the year and found nothing. It was rather quiet, a scary kind of quiet. Nothing was being said to make me feel that anyone was thinking about the Lord’s return.

We are told in Scripture that the Lord is going to come again for those who are looking for Him. Second Timothy 4:8 states that He is coming for all who love His appearing.

“Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not, the Son of Man cometh.” Matthew 24:44, KJV

Have we stopped looking for the Lord’s return? Have we forgotten how important it is to live a life pleasing unto God? Have we forgotten how necessary it is to tell as many people as we can about the love of God and their need to know Him? It’s important to stay focused on God. We should not be so caught up with the “things of this world” that we forget what really matters.

“The night is almost gone; the day of salvation will soon be here. So remove your dark deeds like dirty clothes, and put on the shining armor of right living. Because we belong to the day, we must live decent lives for all to see. Don’t participate in the darkness of wild parties and drunkenness, or in sexual promiscuity and immoral living, or in quarreling and jealousy. Instead, clothe yourself with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. And don’t let yourself think about ways to indulge your evil desires.” Romans 13:12-14, New Living Translation.

In our churches, we are finding those who only want a bless me sermon taught to them. How can I be blessed and the it’s-all-about-me mentality is seemingly permeating those in Christian circles today. But it’s not about us; it is about God. Second Timothy 4:3-5 (The Book) gives us clear instructions:

“For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to right teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever they want to hear. They will reject the truth and follow strange myths. But you should keep a clear mind in every situation. Don’t be afraid of suffering for the Lord. Work at bringing others to Christ. Complete the ministry God has given you.”

I guess my Pentecostal background is driving me to want to be reminded of the Lord’s soon return, or is it? I don’t ever want to forget that we must be anxiously looking for His appearing. I want to live a life pleasing unto the Lord and to be ready when He comes. I want to be busy making sure that everyone who wants to know that God loves them, has the chance to find out. God loves us so much.

“Can a mother forget her nursing child? Can she feel no love for the child she has borne? But even if that were possible, I would not forget you! See, I have written your name on the palms of my hands.” Isaiah 49:15-16, New Living Translation

Let’s be aware of His soon return. Let us be watching and waiting as we live our lives, we want to be ready.

“Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” Colossians 4:5-6, NIV

Finish The Race

 

II Timothy 4: 7
6  For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand.
8  From now on the crown of righteousness is laid up for me, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but to all who crave His appearing.…
Jesus on the cross said, ” It is finished.”
 (Pictures of things finished. Whether racing or baking the finish is welcomed).
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Times of Completion

Times of Completion

They sailed back to Antioch, where they had been committed to the grace of God for the work they had now completed. Acts 14:26

At the end of the year, the burden of uncompleted tasks can weigh us down. Responsibilities at home and work may seem never-ending, and those unfinished today roll into tomorrow. But there are times in our journey of faith when we should pause and celebrate God’s faithfulness and the tasks completed.

After the first missionary journey of Paul and Barnabas, “they sailed back to Antioch, where they had been committed to the grace of God for the work they had now completed” (Acts 14:26). While much work remained in sharing the message of Jesus with others, they took time to give thanks for what had been done. “They gathered the church together and reported all that God had done through them and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles” (v. 27).

What has God done through you during the past year? How has He opened the door of faith for someone you know and love? In ways we can’t imagine, He is at work through us in tasks that may seem insignificant or incomplete.

When we feel painfully aware of our unfinished tasks in serving the Lord, let’s not forget to give thanks for the ways He has worked through us. Rejoicing over what God has done by His grace sets the stage for what is to come!

Lord, as this year comes to a close, we give thanks for all You have accomplished in and through us. By Your grace, lift our eyes to see what is to come!

God is always at work in and through us.

“And Every Virtue We Possess”

December 30 

By Oswald Chambers

Our Lord never “patches up” our natural virtues, that is, our natural traits, qualities, or characteristics. He completely remakes a person on the inside— “…put on the new man…” (Ephesians 4:24). In other words, see that your natural human life is putting on all that is in keeping with the new life. The life God places within us develops its own new virtues, not the virtues of the seed of Adam, but of Jesus Christ. Once God has begun the process of sanctification in your life, watch and see how God causes your confidence in your own natural virtues and power to wither away. He will continue until you learn to draw your life from the reservoir of the resurrection life of Jesus. Thank God if you are going through this drying-up experience!

The sign that God is at work in us is that He is destroying our confidence in the natural virtues, because they are not promises of what we are going to be, but only a wasted reminder of what God created man to be. We want to cling to our natural virtues, while all the time God is trying to get us in contact with the life of Jesus Christ— a life that can never be described in terms of natural virtues. It is the saddest thing to see people who are trying to serve God depending on that which the grace of God never gave them. They are depending solely on what they have by virtue of heredity. God does not take our natural virtues and transform them, because our natural virtues could never even come close to what Jesus Christ wants. No natural love, no natural patience, no natural purity can ever come up to His demands. But as we bring every part of our natural bodily life into harmony with the new life God has placed within us, He will exhibit in us the virtues that were characteristic of the Lord Jesus.

And every virtue we possess
Is His alone.

 

Karen Ehman December 29, 2017
The Richest Poor Man in Texas
KAREN EHMAN

“For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.” Romans 15:4 (NIV)

The year was 1931 — the height of the Depression era in the United States.

In East Texas lived a man named F.K. Lathrop. Like many people at the time, Mr. Lathrop was a common laborer struggling to stretch his meager weekly paycheck to provide for his family’s needs.

He worked at the local plow company earning a very small income. The ground underneath his feet was dry and hard — so hard he had trouble even drilling for water.

But one ordinary day, an attempt to drill revealed more than just H2O flowing beneath this man’s homestead. Rather than just finding water to drink and temporarily satisfy his family’s thirst, Mr. Lathrop found a secret that would ensure that his family would be provided for indefinitely. Hidden deep beneath the rocky soil — was crude oil!

Soon, it was cranking out an astonishing 30,000-40,000 barrels each day. Mr. Lathrop promptly sold the well for $3.5 million dollars, marched into his job and quit. No longer did he have to squeak out a living. He was rolling in the dough — or shall we say, swimming in the oil!

I find this Texas farmer’s tale fascinating. For years, he’d lived without knowing the secret his land was hiding — he was the richest poor man in Texas! It wasn’t until he drilled down deep that he discovered the liquid gold beneath the earth’s crust. Although he lived as a struggling laborer, he was, in fact, a millionaire! However, he was not able to live as a well-to-do mogul until he knew the truth of his situation and tapped into his wealth.

It’s similar to how many of us live our lives today by never tapping into the wealth of Scripture.

Today, in much of the world, we have the Bible available to us at every turn. It’s estimated 88% of people in the United States own a Bible, and the average household contains 4.4 copies of this sacred book. While I can have more physical access to the Bible than ever, this doesn’t always translate into personal application of the truths contained on its pages. As a result, we’re at risk of losing a basic understanding of the life-changing depth, truth and context of Scripture.

Today’s key Scripture showcases the importance of God’s Word in the life of a believer.Romans 15:4 states, “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.”

But the mere presence of a Bible at home — or its passages blinking on my device’s screen — doesn’t ensure I’ll experience all this verse promises. The Bible may be physically nearby, but I need to drill down deep into Scripture and allow the truths of its Word to rush over my soul.

We can’t just read the Bible … we need to allow the Bible to convict and change us. When we do, it will teach us, encourage us and anchor our hope to the Lord. It empowers us to walk in the truth and make decisions according to God’s principles.

Have you discovered the riches of digging deep into God’s Word, or have you been squeaking out a mere existence, essentially living in biblical poverty?

Dust off your Bible. Take time in this new year to unearth the spiritual treasures it offers you there, buried beautifully in the words on its pages. When you know the truth of the Living Word, you’ll gain the confidence to boldly live out the truth in your life. This discovery — even greater than earthly riches — will change your life forever. It sure has mine.

Father, may I drill down deep into Your holy Word, unlocking the truths of Scripture that will empower me to live a godly life. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

In the Garden

From: Get More Strength

“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:31

My wife, Martie, and I had the privilege of traveling to England. While we were there, we visited Hampton Court—the home of King Henry VIII. The first thing we noticed was the beautiful gardens. As an amateur gardener myself, I marveled at the lush green lawns and the perfectly manicured trees, shrubs, and the vibrancy of the flowers. Standing in the middle of all that, I couldn’t help but think back several hundred years to the gardener who designed and maintained this immaculate spread of beauty for the honor of the king. Under the authority of King Henry, he managed the garden for one purpose—to bring pleasure to the king and to create beauty that would bring the king honor and glory in the eyes of every guest who was entertained at Hampton Court.

Connect the dots. The gardener for King Henry and the follower of Christ have something in common—except for the fact that our King is the King of kings! We have been chosen to manage the “gardens” of our lives in ways that bring pleasure and glory to our King, Jesus. I can’t help but think of the shame and displeasure it would have brought to King Henry if his gardener had slacked off, leaving the gardens weed-infested and overgrown when the king entertained important guests at Hampton Court. He wouldn’t have been gardener for long if that had been the case. How much more important it is for us to keep our lives free of the stuff that brings shame and damage to the reputation of Jesus. As gardeners of God’s garden in our lives, how important it is for us to be constantly vigilant to keep the weeds out and to prune the creepy things so they don’t take over and spoil the beauty. We all know what the weeds and creepy things are in our lives. So the issue is not ignorance on what to pull out and cut back, but rather diligence in taking the necessary steps to eliminate the damaging elements and to enhance the good and beautiful things so that we keep our lives looking good for the King!

And speaking of gardening, if you are looking for a good garden manual that delineates what to keep out and what should flourish, then Paul’s words to the Galatian Christians is a great place to start. In Galatians 5:16-24, he states that the weeds of the flesh are things like sexual immorality, idolatry, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, envy, and drunkenness! By contrast, he goes on to say that the fruit—or in this case the beautiful flowers—of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

People pass by the garden of your life every day—all kinds of people—so take a good look at your garden. Is it a source of shame or of glory to your King?

Keep the weeds pulled, prune the creepy things, and let the garden of your life grow to His glory.

Jesus Understands

-(Jesus is the great counselor.  Imagine talking to Jesus who is God).
-The first time Nicodemus is mentioned, he is identified as a Pharisee who comes to see Jesus “at night”. John places this meeting shortly after the Cleansing of the Temple and links it to the signs which Jesus performed in Jerusalem during the Passover feast.
-John 3: 1-21  NIcodemus  talking to Jesus
-You can talk to Jesus anytime through  prayer.
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He Understands

From: Our Daily Journey

He Understands

Read:

Hebrews 4:14-16
We will find grace to help us when we need it most (Hebrews 4:16).

After a traumatic situation forced my son and me to flee the neighborhood in Uganda where we’d had a home for more than six years, we found ourselves suddenly thrust into a difficult season of wandering and searching.

Though the Lord sustained us, upon reflection I’m certain I would have pressed through that time of struggle (and others) with greater strength and peace if had I turned more regularly to the Scriptures and meditated on passages such as Hebrews 4:14-16.

In that text, we’re given a call to hold “firmly to what we believe” by reflecting on our great High Priest, Jesus Christ “who has entered heaven” (Hebrews 4:14), there ruling all of creation with the Father.

But Jesus’ rule is not like that of a harsh authoritarian as we might be tempted to view Him when we’re facing painful times. To the contrary, He’s the Son of God who came to earth fully human and “faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin.” Our High Priest “understands our weaknesses,” yet still invites us to come “boldly to the throne of our gracious God” (Hebrews 4:15-16).

What an extraordinarily loving Father we have! Far from condemning or rejecting us for our sins and weaknesses, He invites us to confidently approach Him and experience the joy and comfort of His presence.

It’s at the throne of our compassionate and loving High Priest that “we will receive his mercy, and . . . find grace to help us when we need it most” (Hebrews 4:16).

The Lord generously makes freely available His kindness, forgiveness, and sustaining grace to us. He’s for us, not against us, and He rewards those who “sincerely seek him” (Hebrews 11:6).

The Value of Wonder

From: Nancy E. Head, Author

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“We are perishing for want of wonder, not for want of wonders.” G.K. Chesterton

One year, between Christmas and New Year’s Day, I had the blessing of being sick. Good timing — after Christmas, when there’s time for not doing much.

Wednesday: A granddaughter was sick along with me. Two bad cases of winter yuck: coughing and head stuff. We each claimed a couch and a blanket. Since she is the other Rod Serling fan in the family, I put in a DVD of Twilight Zone episodes. Black and white images flickered in the glow of a wood fire and a lit tree.

We found a twilight of wonder with Serling voicing over our dreams.

Thursday: Still sick, but in solitude, I wanted to stitch away some time to finish restoring a quilt. If I finished it (and applied some Lysol), two granddaughters could dream underneath it for our annual New Year’s overnight.

As I sewed, I searched for some background diversion. Flipping channels, I found two-inch deep television. I settled on Netflix and discovered The Little Prince.

It’s a story within a story. An eccentric neighbor relates The Little Prince to a young girl. Her life is consumed with the essentials of preparing for adulthood, her mother having mapped out every waking moment. No time for dreaming. No time for wonder. Only enterprise, but without the vision of wonder.

“Where there is no vision, the people perish.” Proverbs 29:18 KJV

The neighbor shows the girl the stars. Beyond them, she sees what is truly essential — what the neighbor himself has already learned from the little prince.

“And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

When we find wonder — the invisible that shapes our souls — we learn the essence of who we are. And that essence speaks in everything we do. We learn that the world can be full of patient wonder. And patience is not found in a 30-minute sitcom that resolves a superficial crisis.

Wonder takes us deeper than two inches. It teaches us to endure. And endurance pays off with a prize. The prince:

“Well, I must endure the presence of a few caterpillars if I wish to become acquainted with the butterflies.”

Patience is, of course, a virtue. And wonder will always teach us virtue. C.S. Lewis shows us what happens when we lack vision and thereby lack wonder:

“We make men without chests and expect from them virtue and enterprise.”

Without wonder, we have only empty enterprise. We have no virtue and no vision.

On the first night of the New Year, two girls and I settled down with a bowl of popcorn and The Little Prince. Then they dreamed under the completed quilt.

One day they will be grown-ups, at times consumed with the essentials of everyday living, but the prince reminds us that,

“All grown-ups were once children… but only few of them remember it.”

May they count themselves among the few who remember — because only those who remember that wonder comes from God can participate in it with Him.

“Then Joshua said to the people, ‘Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do wonders among you.’” Joshua 3:5 EST

Deserter or Disciple?

By Oswald Chambers

 Deserter or Disciple?

When God, by His Spirit through His Word, gives you a clear vision of His will, you must “walk in the light” of that vision (1 John 1:7). Even though your mind and soul may be thrilled by it, if you don’t “walk in the light” of it you will sink to a level of bondage never envisioned by our Lord. Mentally disobeying the “heavenly vision” (Acts 26:19) will make you a slave to ideas and views that are completely foreign to Jesus Christ. Don’t look at someone else and say, “Well, if he can have those views and prosper, why can’t I?” You have to “walk in the light” of the vision that has been given to you. Don’t compare yourself with others or judge them— that is between God and them. When you find that one of your favorite and strongly held views clashes with the “heavenly vision,” do not begin to debate it. If you do, a sense of property and personal right will emerge in you— things on which Jesus placed no value. He was against these things as being the root of everything foreign to Himself— “…for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses” (Luke 12:15). If we don’t see and understand this, it is because we are ignoring the underlying principles of our Lord’s teaching.

Our tendency is to lie back and bask in the memory of the wonderful experience we had when God revealed His will to us. But if a New Testament standard is revealed to us by the light of God, and we don’t try to measure up, or even feel inclined to do so, then we begin to backslide. It means your conscience does not respond to the truth. You can never be the same after the unveiling of a truth. That moment marks you as one who either continues on with even more devotion as a disciple of Jesus Christ, or as one who turns to go back as a deserter.

 

Happy Hearts

Proverbs 15:13-15   (NIV)

13 A happy heart makes the face cheerful,
    but heartache crushes the spirit.

14 The discerning heart seeks knowledge,
    but the mouth of a fool feeds on folly.

15 All the days of the oppressed are wretched,
    but the cheerful heart has a continual feast.

 

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Everyday Moments

From: Our Daily Bread

Everyday Moments

A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit. Proverbs 15:13

I piled groceries in my car and carefully exited my parking spot. Suddenly a man darted across the pavement just in front of me, not noticing my approach. I slammed on my brakes, just missing him. Startled, he looked up and met my gaze. In that moment, I knew I had a choice: respond with rolled-eye frustration or offer a smiling forgiveness. I smiled.

Relief flickered across his face, raising the edges of his own lips in gratefulness.

Proverbs 15:13 says, “A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit.” Is the writer directing us to cheery grins in the face of every interruption, disappointment, and inconvenience life brings? Surely not! There are times for genuine mourning, despair, and even anger at injustice. But in our everyday moments, a smile can offer relief, hope, and the grace needed to continue.

Perhaps the point of the proverb is that a smile naturally results from the condition of our inner beings. A “happy heart” is at peace, content, and yielded to God’s best. With such a heart, happy from the inside out, we can respond to surprising circumstances with a genuine smile, inviting others to embrace the hope and peace they too can experience with God.

Dear Father, today as I cross paths with others around me, make my heart happy that I may share with them the hope only You can offer.

Encourage one another and build each other up. 1 Thessalonians 5:11

 

Brenda Bradford Ottinger December 28, 2017
The Weight of the Wait
BRENDA BRADFORD OTTINGER, COMPEL Member

From: Crosswalk.com

“Lord, you have been our home since the beginning.” Psalm 90:1 (NCV)

Shuffling through my small Kentucky kitchen, I flipped the calendar page. I turned to October 2008 — new month of the year, same cry of my heart.

Time was younger then, and so were we. We’d moved a lot, and while I believe those years of wandering were part of God’s plan, I longed to feel at home … somewhere. We’d had happy times; there wasn’t an absence of joy. But my heart craved home.

That October day, we had a house for sale in one state while living in another. Life was less than settled, and I was less than patient. Weary and spent, I lifted the calendar page to expose a new month — more time that wouldn’t cooperate with the longing of my heart.

And there, in that modest rental kitchen, God met me.

The words hidden beneath a fresh autumn month read, “Lord, you have been our home since the beginning. Psalm 90:1.”

With the casual turning of a page, I felt God whisper, “Psst, I know. It matters to Me. I’ve got this. But hey, by the way — what you long for, you already have. You’ve had it since the beginning. I am your Home.”

I never needed anything else. My security, comfort and contentment were in Him. The Home my heart craved from the beginning.

As He spoke shelter over me that morning, the wait began to feel more like an invitation than a burden.

Of course, there’s always a pesky human element to waiting that can feel heavy at times. But He’s been teaching me over the years that what my heart longs for can’t be satisfied by what my life longs for. The temporal can’t pacify the eternal.

And please know, I am not an honor student in this course. In fact, I seem to be enrolled in the perpetual refresher class, as it’s a lesson I’m forever learning. Even now, many years after being graciously settled in a place we adore, I still yearn for a version of home yet unknown. Country roads. Split-rail fences. Fresh air. Open space.

What about you, friend? Are you in an interim season that feels heavy right now? Have you, too, ever found yourself forfeiting the invitation to abide while stalled in the seclusion of the wait?

We’re so prone to searching for home in containers not made to carry its calling — whether in place or people, title or position, acceptance or belonging — we instinctively seek to satisfy its heaviness by human means.

Oh, to surrender instead to eternal means — for He longs to satisfy the wait with Himself.

Dear God, please give us a heart for the now, not the next. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

Resting Versus Escape

By: Melissa Spoelstra, Author

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And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. ~ Philippians 4:8 NLT

I was talking about rest with a Jewish believer in Christ who mentioned that he observed a Friday evening to Saturday evening Sabbath rest each week. He told me that rest should draw us nearer to God, so he set this time aside for that purpose.

My life would radically change if I set aside 24 hours each week to rest and connect with Jesus. I reflected on some of the ways I tend to unwind after the hustle and bustle of the holidays or even just at the end of a long week. Rather than engaging in restful activities to draw me close to the Lord, I often turn to modes of escape. It can be easy to give ourselves permission to indulge our flesh after the intensity of holiday preparation and celebration. After all, we baked all those cookies, wrapped all those presents, attended all those gatherings, and put up all those decorations. Don’t we deserve a break? God desires that we get some needed rest, but too many times I’m drawn to things that don’t leave me feeling restored and closer to the Lord. At the end of a Law and Order marathon and several bowls of ice cream, I don’t typically experience a healthier mind and body.

So in the aftermath of the holidays, we must ask ourselves this question: What restful activities will bring us closer to God and be restorative to our souls? The answer to this question for me includes things such as:

  • Sleep. When I am deprived of bodily rest, I get cranky and short-tempered. I open myself up to temptation when I am tired. Sleeping makes me feel closer to God and more pleasant in general.
  • Walking. Taking a walk in a park or nature preserve brings me closer to the Lord as I breathe in fresh air and observe God’s creation. It can be tough to do this depending on the weather, but even ten minutes outside can do wonders for the spirit.
  • Reading. Whether it’s Scripture, a good novel, or a marriage, parenting, or self-help book, reading is relaxing for me.
  • Writing. Not everyone enjoys pouring his or her heart out on paper, but journaling is a way that I can reflect on my feelings and concerns and helps me process what God is teaching me.

Your list might be totally different. Organizing a closet, gathering with people, or playing a game might help you rest. Taking time for reflective activities will be a key for us to learn to rest in a way that connects us with God rather than providing a temporary escape. We can use Philippians 4:8 as a good test for our leisure activities. We can ask if this restful endeavor helps us to focus on things that are:

  • true
  • honorable
  • right
  • pure
  • lovely
  • admirable
  • excellent
  • worthy of praise

When we find things that fit these criteria, we usually walk away feeling restored and rested. Media and junk food might make us feel good initially, but they will not ultimately leave us with the connection with God that we desire. While we may not be able to devote a full 24 hours to resting every week, we can carve out restorative time on a regular basis.

Lord, help me to learn to rest rather than escape after stressful activities. I want to surrender even my leisure time to You. Guide me to engage in restful activities that help me grow closer to You. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.

 

 

Give Thanks To God

1 Thessalonians 5:18 

In every thing give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

Ephesians 5:18-20 (ASV)

Be filled with the Spirit; speaking one to another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; giving thanks always for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father.

Psalm 136:26 

Give thanks to the God of heaven,
  For His lovingkindness (graciousness, mercy, compassion) endures forever.

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Thanks Journal

From: Our Daily Bread

Thanks Journal
Read: Psalm 117 | Bible in a Year: Zechariah 1–4; Revelation 18

Praise the Lord, all you nations; extol him, all you peoples. Psalm 117:1

When I was a new believer in Jesus, a spiritual mentor encouraged me to keep a thanks journal. It was a little booklet I carried with me everywhere I went. Sometimes I would record a thanksgiving right away. Other times, I would pen it at the end of the week during a time of reflection.

Taking note of praise items is a good habit—one I’m considering re-establishing in my life. It would help me to be mindful of God’s presence and grateful for His provision and care.

In the shortest of all the psalms, Psalm 117, the writer encourages everyone to praise the Lord because “great is his love toward us” (v. 2).

Think about it: How has the Lord shown His love toward you today, this week, this month, and this year? Don’t just look for the spectacular. His love is seen in the ordinary, everyday circumstances of life. Then consider how He has shown His love toward your family, your church, and to others. Let your mind soak up the extent of His love for all of us.

The psalmist added that “the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever” (v. 2 emphasis added). In other words, He will continue to love us! So we will continue to have many things to praise God for in the coming days. As His dearly loved children, may praising and thanking God characterize our lives!

Father, if we were to record all of Your blessings, we could not complete the task in a lifetime. But we can pause this moment to say a simple “Thank You” for Your faithfulness and goodness.

Remember to thank God for the ordinary as well as the extraordinary.

 

A New Day

From: Our Daily Journey

A New Day

Read:

Jeremiah 31:31-34
I will put my instructions deep within them, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people (Jeremiah 31:33).

It was a cold December when my father’s health began to dramatically fail. The joy of Christmas was a bit muted. Two weeks later on his ninetieth birthday, my dad went to be with his Savior. There were tears of grief, but there was also joy. My father had been set free from the ravages of disease. And when he took his last breath, he enjoyed a truly new day in Jesus’ presence!

As we celebrate Advent and the mystery of Christ coming to earth, we see a shadow—the shadow of the cross—amid the joy and light of the season. We recognize that Jesus’ birth was part of God’s plan that would ultimately lead to His death. And Jeremiah’s prophecy several hundred years before (Jeremiah 31:31-34) pointed to a new covenant that God would establish through Christ.

During days of destruction for Judah, Jeremiah prophesied a time when God would “make a new covenant with [His] people” (Jeremiah 31:31) and—ultimately—all those who would one day believe in Jesus. This new covenant would resolve the problem of human sinfulness by not only “[forgiving] their wickedness” and forgetting their sin (Jeremiah 31:34), but actually placing God’s “instructions deep within them” and writing “them on their hearts” (Jeremiah 31:33).

As the writer of Hebrews declares, this is possible because Jesus was “given a ministry that is far superior to the old priesthood” (Hebrews 8:6). Although the priesthood graciously revealed God to His people, through the coming of Jesus we’re transformed by the Holy Spirit indwelling us and working within us when we receive Christ as Savior (Romans 7:6).

Because of the new covenant, we can experience joy in the midst of pain and sorrow—for Jesus by His Spirit is within us and our future with Him is secure!

 

Pummeled by the Waves

By: Jennifer Slattery, author

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Do you ever feel like you’re struggling to keep your head above water? Like you’re lost at sea, surrounded by fog and never-ending waves? Perhaps you’ve become so exhausted, you’ve begun to wonder if you’ll remain lost at sea forever.

Often, when I face a rough period, I’m reminded of my first open water swim. The water was cold and somehow the 500 meters across the lake seemed double to the 20-lap equivalent in the pool. There weren’t any clearly marked lines painted along the bottom. Only a blur of feet pelting me in the head and face and the occasional buoy shrouded in fog.

As wave after wave swept over me, filling my nose and mouth with murky lake water, it felt like I was fighting a losing battle. For every exhausting stroke forward, the current seemed to take me two strokes back. The harder the current pulled, the harder I kicked. Before long, my tense muscles killed my buoyancy. My legs sank, throwing my entire body off alignment for about two minutes. Then, muscle memory kicked in and my body relaxed, allowing me to follow the gentle ebb and flow of the current.

The result? The minute I quit fighting and striving and pounding the water, I started to relax. And a relaxed body floats much better than a tense one. Before long, I fell into a nice, smooth rhythm that carried me to shore.

I think the same holds true for our spiritual life as. We’ll hear God’s call. Maybe it’s to start a new Sunday school class or join a ministry, or maybe it’s to go back to school after 10, 20, or 30 years out … and all we can see are the crashing waves, threatening to hold us back.

We begin to sink under a torrent of to-do lists and expectations, forgetting that the God who told us to jump in is ready and able to carry us to the shore. The waves don’t surprise Him; the fog doesn’t daunt Him. He knows which way the wind is blowing, which way the waves will crash, and which currents will carry us the farthest. In fact, He’s got our entire journey mapped out and has assumed full responsibility to get us there.

“Then he said to me, “This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the LORD of hosts” Zechariah 4:6 (ESV).

It is our choice, then, how we will respond. We can relax, surrendering to God in whatever direction He carries us, knowing that He will not let us drown. Or we can pummel against the waves, beating ourselves into a frenzy of exhaustion as we fight against the current.

Are you tired today? Feeling discouraged? Pause to meditate on the words of your Savior:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28 (NIV).

Jesus knows exactly what you are facing and how hard it is. He’s got a plan and the power to carry out. Trust in Him, and wait for Him. He won’t abandon you nor close His ears to your pleas.

What On Earth

Matthew 28:19-20  (NKJV)

19 Go therefore[a] and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.[b]

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What on Earth?

From: Our Daily Bread

What on Earth?

My God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19

When Andrew Cheatle lost his cell phone at the beach, he thought it was gone forever. About a week later, however, fisherman Glen Kerley called him. He had pulled Cheatle’s phone, still functional after it dried, out of a 25-pound cod.

Life is full of odd stories, and we find more than a few of them in the Bible. One day tax collectors came to Peter demanding to know, “Doesn’t your teacher pay the temple tax?” (Matt. 17:24). Jesus turned the situation into a teaching moment. He wanted Peter to understand His role as king. Taxes weren’t collected from the children of the king, and the Lord made it clear that neither He nor His children owed any temple tax (vv. 25–26).

Yet Jesus wanted to be careful not to “cause offense” (v. 27), so He told Peter to go fishing. (This is the odd part of the story.) Peter found a coin in the mouth of the first fish he caught.

What on earth is Jesus doing here? A better question is, “What in God’s kingdom is Jesus doing?” He is the rightful King—even when many do not recognize Him as such. When we accept His role as Lord in our lives, we become His children.

Life will still throw its various demands at us, but Jesus will provide for us. As former pastor David Pompo put it, “When we’re fishing for our Father, we can depend on Him for all we need.”

Lord, teach us to bask in the wonderful realization that You provide everything we need.

We are children of the King!

 

God’s Love Letter

From: Our Daily Journey

God’s Love Letter

Read:

1 Peter 1:13-25
You have been born again, but not to a life that will quickly end. Your new life will last forever because it comes from the eternal, living word of God (1 Peter 1:23).

Many years ago, a love-struck groom on a military base penned a love letter to his young bride. But then the letter was lost by the postal service. Forty-six years later, a crew dismantling an old post office discovered it. They turned it over to the postmaster who found the man and his wife and gave it to them days after their fiftieth wedding anniversary! The love expressed in the letter had endured the test of several decades.

What the young man wrote to his wife was heartfelt, but it pales in comparison to the love letter God has extended to us in Scripture. Peter reminded a group of believers in Jesus, who had come to faith outside of Judaism, of the Word of God they had received—the message of the gospel. These were people who were struggling to form a community of faith in the midst of a foreign land.

The believers had been “ransomed” from their former sinful lifestyles (1 Peter 1:18-20). They’d been born again through the work of the life-changing message of Jesus (1 Peter 1:23). This living and enduring Word—through the power of Jesus, the eternal Word (John 1:1)—awakened new life within them, initiated their living in a way set apart for Him, drew them toward obedience to Him, and reinforced the permanence of their new life in Christ (1 Peter 1:22,24). Peter shared that the “Good News” of Jesus would stand forever because the God who made it possible was eternal and faithful (1 Peter 1:25).

As we continue to live in the midst of a broken world, let’s renew our faith and love in Jesus by opening and reading God’s love letter to us—the Bible. Through the Scriptures, we can be reminded of all that Jesus provides and turn to Him for new life, deeper love, and an eternal, living hope.

 

“Walk in the Light”

By Oswald Chambers

 

To mistake freedom from sin only on the conscious level of our lives for complete deliverance from sin by the atonement through the Cross of Christ is a great error. No one fully knows what sin is until he is born again. Sin is what Jesus Christ faced at Calvary. The evidence that I have been delivered from sin is that I know the real nature of sin in me. For a person to really know what sin is requires the full work and deep touch of the atonement of Jesus Christ, that is, the imparting of His absolute perfection.

The Holy Spirit applies or administers the work of the atonement to us in the deep unconscious realm as well as in the conscious realm. And it is not until we truly perceive the unrivaled power of the Spirit in us that we understand the meaning of 1 John 1:7 , which says, “…the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.” This verse does not refer only to conscious sin, but also to the tremendously profound understanding of sin which only the Holy Spirit in me can accomplish.

I must “walk in the light as He is in the light…”— not in the light of my own conscience, but in God’s light. If I will walk there, with nothing held back or hidden, then this amazing truth is revealed to me: “…the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses [me] from all sin” so that God Almighty can see nothing to rebuke in me. On the conscious level it produces a keen, sorrowful knowledge of what sin really is. The love of God working in me causes me to hate, with the Holy Spirit’s hatred for sin, anything that is not in keeping with God’s holiness. To “walk in the light” means that everything that is of the darkness actually drives me closer to the center of the light.

Merry Christmas!

 

Luke 2:11-14    (KJV)

11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

 

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Traditions and Christmas

From: Our Daily Bread

Traditions and Christmas
Read: Luke 2:1–10 | Bible in a Year: Zephaniah 1–3; Revelation 16

I bring you good news that will cause great joy . . . a Savior has been born to you. Luke 2:10–11

As you savor a candy cane this Christmas, say “danke schön” to the Germans, for that confectionary treat was first created in Cologne. As you admire your poinsettia, say “gracias” to Mexico, where the plant originated. Say “merci beaucoup” to the French for the term noel, and give a “cheers” to the English for your mistletoe.

But as we enjoy our traditions and festivities of the Christmas season—customs that have been collected from around the world—let’s save our most sincere and heartfelt “thank you” for our good, merciful, and loving God. From Him came the reason for our Christmas celebration: the baby born in that Judean manger more than 2,000 years ago. An angel announced the arrival of this gift to mankind by saying, “I bring you good news that will cause great joy . . . a Savior has been born to you” (Luke 2:10–11).

This Christmas, even in the light of the sparkling Christmas tree and surrounded by newly opened presents, the true excitement comes when we turn our attention to the baby named Jesus, who came to “save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21). His birth transcends tradition: It is our central focus as we send praises to God for this indescribable Christmas gift.

Lord, we thank You for coming to join us on that first Christmas. During a time of the year filled with many traditions, help us to keep You first.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him. Romans 15:13

 

His Birth and Our New Birth

December 25 

By Oswald Chambers

His Birth and Our New Birth

His Birth in History. “…that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God (Luke 1:35). Jesus Christ was born into this world, not from it. He did not emerge out of history; He came into history from the outside. Jesus Christ is not the best human being the human race can boast of— He is a Being for whom the human race can take no credit at all. He is not man becoming God, but God Incarnate— God coming into human flesh from outside it. His life is the highest and the holiest entering through the most humble of doors. Our Lord’s birth was an advent— the appearance of God in human form.

His Birth in Me. “My little children, for whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you…” (Galatians 4:19). Just as our Lord came into human history from outside it, He must also come into me from outside. Have I allowed my personal human life to become a “Bethlehem” for the Son of God? I cannot enter the realm of the kingdom of God unless I am born again from above by a birth totally unlike physical birth. “You must be born again” (John 3:7). This is not a command, but a fact based on the authority of God. The evidence of the new birth is that I yield myself so completely to God that “Christ is formed” in me. And once “Christ is formed” in me, His nature immediately begins to work through me.

God Evident in the Flesh. This is what is made so profoundly possible for you and for me through the redemption of man by Jesus Christ.

Good News Of Great Joy

Luke 2: 9-11
9  Just then, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 
11 Today in the City of David a Savior has been born to you. He is Christ the Lord!
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A Thrill of Hope

From: Our Daily Bread

A Thrill of Hope
Read: Luke 2:11–20 | Bible in a Year: Habakkuk 1–3; Revelation 15

Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. Luke 2:11

Reginald Fessenden had been working for years to achieve wireless radio communication. Other scientists found his ideas radical and unorthodox, and doubted he would succeed. But he claims that on December 24, 1906, he became the first person to ever play music over the radio.

Fessenden held a contract with a fruit company which had installed wireless systems on roughly a dozen boats to communicate about the harvesting and marketing of bananas. That Christmas Eve, Fessenden said that he told the wireless operators on board all ships to pay attention. At 9 o’clock they heard his voice.

He reportedly played a record of an operatic aria, and then he pulled out his violin, playing “O Holy Night” and singing the words to the last verse as he played. Finally, he offered Christmas greetings and read from Luke 2 the story of angels announcing the birth of a Savior to shepherds in Bethlehem.

Both the shepherds in Bethlehem over two thousand years ago and the sailors on board the United Fruit Company ships in 1906 heard an unexpected, surprising message of hope on a dark night. And God still speaks that same message of hope to us today. A Savior has been born for us—Christ the Lord! (Luke 2:11). We can join the choir of angels and believers through the ages who respond with “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests” (v. 14).

God, we give You glory and thank You for sending Your Son Jesus Christ to be our Savior!

Without Christ there is no hope. Charles Spurgeon.

 

Light of the World

From: Our Daily Journey

Light of the World

Read:

Colossians 1:15-20
Everything was created through him and for him (Colossians 1:16).

An amazing phenomenon has recently been discovered: As a sperm meets an egg at human conception, a flash of light is emitted! Researchers have actually captured these mini-fireworks on film.

It’s amazing to consider that Jesus, the One who created light, also establishes life in a flash of light (Genesis 1:3Luke 1:35). The One who “is a light to reveal God to the nations” and the “light of the world” has also designed life to begin with light (Luke 2:32John 8:12).

During this Advent season, we often reflect on the light God has brought to the world through His Son. Paul wrote that Jesus is “the visible image of the invisible God” and “through him God created everything” (Colossians 1:15-16). In these words that may have been part of an early church confession of faith or a hymn, the apostle revealed that “[Christ] existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together” (Colossians 1:17).

This Giver of Light has created all we see—from the flash of light at conception to the countless shining stars in the night sky. And He sustains it by His divine power. So even though the darkness of sin, brokenness, and suffering may threaten to overwhelm us, He remains our beacon of hope. He provides the spark of strength we need to remain firm in our faith (1 Corinthians 1:8).

Have some dark clouds settled on you today? The effects of broken relationships or painful losses? Remember that the One who “made peace with everything in heaven and on earth” can illumine your path with His brilliant light (Colossians 1:20). The One who “made the things we can see and the things we can’t see” will sustain you by His love and power (Colossians 1:16).

He is your Creator, Sustainer, and Light.

 

Tumbleweed Christmas

By: Danni Andrew

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“Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means `God is with us.'” Matthew 1:23 NLT

My memory wanders back to a much simpler time, when life for this six-year-old child was one of great wonder. It was the winter of 1970 and my family had only recently moved to the Southwest. Snow covered the landscape and it seemed the wind blew constantly. With Christmas just around the corner, I worried as there was no tree in our living room, and no gifts to wonder about. As a small child my understanding about finances was slim, nor did I consider where the gifts might come from.

Christmas morning dawned as I crept quietly to the living room. In the faint shadows just before daylight, I could see a tree with presents under it. Afraid of being in trouble I ran back to my bed, waiting impatiently for the call announcing that it was time to get up. In my imagination, I saw the green boughs of a Christmas tree, and I imagined what was in those gifts under that tree.

“Time to get up”, echoed through our home and my little heart beat wildly. Unable to contain my excitement any longer, I ran to the living room. My small feet skidded to a stop. Before me stood a tree like none I had ever seen before. Two tumbleweeds, one on top of the other, and lightly dusted with spray snow, graced the corner of our living room. Upon that pitiful little “tree” my Mother had made a paper chain of red and green construction paper. Ropes of popcorn also circled the little tree. Behind the tree, nailed to the wall, were four stockings. In each of those stockings we found an orange and a candy cane. Each present contained a pair of flannel pajamas, made with expert care by my Mother’s hands.

As I stared at our Christmas tree, tears welled up inside of my heart. My dreams of a big, green tree decorated with tinsel and lights were gone, and my little heart was broken. Somewhere deep within me I knew that my Mother had done all that she could do for us on that cold morning. My young heart also knew that I must hide my disappointment and put on a face of surprise and happiness.

As the years passed and I became an adult, I realized the love that had gone into that tree. There had not been any electricity in our house, yet my Mother had made flannel pajamas on an old treadle sewing machine. When asked of that Christmas she had dropped her head, almost embarrassed to speak of such things. Somehow she knew that I had been disappointed. A child’s heart does not understand these things, but as an adult I have learned to cherish the memory of that tumbleweed Christmas tree. To remember the love that was put into it by my Mother who was determined to do something with nothing for her children.

“And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1:21 NLT

As I ponder my plans for the holidays, I think of what Christmas really means. It is not about what I might get for Christmas; it is so much more about what Jesus did for me. It is also about what I can do for others. Whether I have a lot of money or very little, it does not matter what I get or how much money was spent. Every time I think of that tumbleweed Christmas tree, I am reminded of what Christmas is really about.

God With Us

Emmanuel means God with us. The little baby grew up to be the healer, and Savior of the world.

The Return to Nazareth   Luke 2: 40-41
39  When Jesus’ parents had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. 

40  And the Child grew and became strong. He was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon Him.

41 Every year His parents went to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover.…

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God with Us

From: Our Daily Bread

God with Us
Read: Matthew 1:18–23 | Bible in a Year: Nahum 1–3; Revelation 14

The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel. Matthew 1:23

“Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ within me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ at my right, Christ at my left . . .” These hymn lyrics, written by the fifth-century Celtic Christian St. Patrick, echo in my mind when I read Matthew’s account of Jesus’s birth. They feel like a warm embrace, reminding me that I’m never alone.

Matthew’s account tells us that God dwelling with His people is at the heart of Christmas. Quoting Isaiah’s prophecy of a child who would be called Immanuel, meaning “God with us” (Isa. 7:14), Matthew points to the ultimate fulfillment of that prophecy—Jesus, the One born by the power of the Holy Spirit to be God with us. This truth is so central that Matthew begins and ends his gospel with it, concluding with Jesus’s words to His disciples: “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matt. 28:20).

St. Patrick’s lyrics remind me that Christ is with believers always through His Spirit living within. When I’m nervous or afraid, I can hold fast to His promises that He will never leave me. When I can’t fall asleep, I can ask Him to give me His peace. When I’m celebrating and filled with joy, I can thank Him for His gracious work in my life.

Jesus, Immanuel—God with us.

Father God, thank You for sending Your Son to be God with us. May we experience Your presence this day.

God’s love became Incarnate at Bethlehem.

 

God incarnate, the end of fear

Author: Charles Spurgeon, Theologian

‘And the angel said unto them, Fear not.’ Luke 2:10

Suggested Further Reading: Isaiah 9:2–7

Observe the angel’s word, ‘Unto you is born.’ Our Lord Jesus Christ is in some senses more man than Adam. Adam was not born; Adam never had to struggle through the risks and weaknesses of infancy; he knew not the littleness of childhood; he was full grown at once. Father Adam could not sympathise with me as a babe and a child. But how man-like is Jesus! He is cradled with us in the manger; he does not begin with us in mid-life, as Adam, but he accompanies us in the pains and feebleness and infirmities of infancy, and he continues with us even to the grave. Beloved, this is such sweet comfort. He that is God this day was once an infant: so that if my cares are little and even trivial and comparatively infantile, I may go to him, for he was once a child. Though the great ones of the earth may sneer at the child of poverty, and say, ‘You are too mean, and your trouble is too slight for pity,’ I recollect with humble joy, that the King of heaven did hang upon a woman’s breast, and was wrapped in swaddling bands, and therefore I tell him all my griefs. How wonderful that he should have been an infant, and yet should be God over all, blessed for ever! I am not afraid of God now; this blessed link between me and God, the holy child Jesus, has taken all fear away. Observe, the angel told them somewhat of his office, as well as of his birth. ‘Unto you is born this day a Saviour.’ The very object for which he was born and came into this world was that he might deliver us from sin. What was it that made us afraid? Were we not afraid of God because we felt that we were lost through sin? Well then, here is joy upon joy.

For meditation: Adam was created, but never born; he identifies with us only as a creature and a sinner (Romans 5:12). Christ, the second Adam (Romans 5:14), was never created, but his birth was an important part of his identification with us, so that believers could be identified with him as sons of God (Galatians 4:4–5).

 

The incarnation and birth of Christ

Author: Charles Spurgeon, great pastor and evangelist

“But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from old, from everlasting.” Micah 5:2

Suggested Further Reading: Hebrews 10:5-7

“Go,” saith the Father, “and thy Father’s blessing on thy head!” Then comes the unrobing. How do angels crowd around to see the Son of God take off his robes! He laid aside his crown; he said, “My father, I am Lord over all, blessed for ever, but I will lay my crown aside, and be as mortal men are.” He strips himself of his bright vest of glory; “Father,” he says, “I will wear a robe of clay, just such as men wear.” Then he takes off all those jewels wherewith he was glorified; he lays aside his starry mantles and robes of light, to dress himself in the simple garments of the peasant of Galilee. What a solemn disrobing that must have been! And next, can you picture the dismissal! The angels attend the Saviour through the streets, until they approach the doors; when an angel cries, “Lift up your heads, O ye gates, and be ye lifted up ye everlasting doors, and let the king of glory through!” I think the angels must have wept when they lost the company of Jesus—when the Sun of heaven bereaved them of all its light. But they went after him. They descended with him; and when his spirit entered into flesh, and he became a babe, he was attended by that mighty host of angels, who after they had been with him to Bethlehem’s manger, and seen him safely laid on his mother’s breast, in their journey upwards appeared to the shepherds and told them that he was born king of the Jews. The Father sent him! Contemplate that subject. Let your soul get hold of it, and in every period of his life think that he suffered what the Father willed; that every step of his life was marked with the approval of the great I AM.

For meditation: When we think of the birth of the Son of God, our eyes are rightly focused on earth. But are we in danger of forgetting God the Father in heaven, the one who so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son (John 3:16)? May we remember to give “Glory to God in the highest” (Luke 2:14).

 

The Miracle of Christmas

By: Wally Odum, Author

The Christmas story began in an unlikely town—Nazareth. Nathaniel spoke for a generation of Jewish people when he asked Philip, “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” (John 1:46). God wasn’t deterred by the reputations of the town of Nazareth or the region of Galilee. He was willing to go to an improbable place to find a young girl who had faith. He searched the world for the right young woman to carry His Son.

And was Mary ever the right choice! I have trouble believing for a miracle even though there are historical precedences for it. Here was a young girl who believed for a miracle that had never been experienced before and hasn’t been experienced since. She would be pregnant without the involvement of a man. A virgin would give birth to the Son of God.

The social implications of her response were staggering. She was engaged to Joseph, but they had not yet begun to live together. The betrothal was for a full year and then the marriage would have taken place. However, unfaithfulness during the betrothal period was as serious as adultery after marriage. She and Joseph, and ultimately Jesus, would live under a cloud of suspicion for the rest of their lives.

Mary’s response to the angel’s announcement was predictable. She was “troubled.” The Greek word means that she was thoroughly confused and perplexed. Why shouldn’t she be? This had never happened before in all human history.

Mary asked the only question that made sense at the time: “ ‘How will this be,’ Mary asked the angel, ‘since I am a virgin?’ ” (Luke 1:34).

The angel’s response showed that this would have to be the result of the Holy Spirit’s activity. “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35).

Miracles just don’t happen without the activity of the Holy Spirit. It was true then for this amazing event and it’s true now. So here is a lesson for all of us from the Christmas story, and it applies to us not just at Christmas, but every other day of our lives. We cannot live the life God wants for us, and achieve the dreams he has for us, without the power of the Holy Spirit.

The work of the Holy Spirit was God’s side of the miracle, but what about Mary’s responsibility? Tucked away in the original language of her conversation with the angel was a word that isn’t noticed from a quick reading of the exchange with Gabriel. The angel said to Mary, “For nothing is impossible with God” (Luke 1:37). Mary responded to the angel: “May it be to me as you have said” (Luke 1:38).

Literally, the angel said to Mary, “No rhema of God is powerless.” A rhema is a Greek expression for a “word.” When God speaks, what He says isn’t powerless but is able to bring a miracle to pass. She got the message. She responded, literally, “Let it be to me according to your rhema.” Mary was saying, “If the rhema of God is powerful and does not fail, then let that word work for me.” God wants that to be our response. “Since your Word is not powerless, let it be to me according to your Word.”

We learn from Mary to never give up on the rhema of God. There may seem to be obstacles to God’s promises, but those obstacles can’t stop us if we hold fast to what God has said. His word is powerful. The power of the Holy Spirit and the power of God’s Word are still available. This would be a good time to watch what God will do. It worked for Mary and it will work for us.

Glory To God In The Highest

Glory To God In The HIghest
A psalm. For giving grateful praise.  Psalm 100
Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his 100:3 Or and not we ourselves;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
 
Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
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 Image result for picture of heavenly choirImage result for picture of heavenly choir
 Image result for picture of heavenly choirImage result for picture of heavenly choir

Silent Night of the Soul

From: Our Daily Bread

Silent Night of the Soul

If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone; the new is here! 2 Corinthians 5:17

Long before Joseph Mohr and Franz Gruber created the familiar carol “Silent Night,” Angelus Silesius had written:

Lo! in the silent night a child to God is born,
And all is brought again that ere was lost or lorn.
Could but thy soul, O man, become a silent night
God would be born in thee and set all things aright.

Silesius, a Polish monk, published the poem in 1657 in The Cherubic Pilgrim.During our church’s annual Christmas Eve service, the choir sang a beautiful rendition of the song titled “Could but Thy Soul Become a Silent Night.”

The twofold mystery of Christmas is that God became one of us so that we might become one with Him. Jesus suffered everything that was wrong so that we could be made right. That’s why the apostle Paul could write, “If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone; the new is here! All this is from God who reconciled us to himself through Christ” (2 Cor. 5:17–18).

Whether our Christmas is filled with family and friends or empty of all we long for, we know that Jesus came to be born in us.

Ah, would thy heart but be a manger for the birth,
God would once more become a child on earth.

Lord Jesus, thank You for being born into this dark world so that we might be born again into Your life and light.

God became one of us so that we might become one with Him.

Silent Night of the Soul

From: Nancy E. Head, Author

Silent Night of the Soul

If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone; the new is here! 2 Corinthians 5:17

Long before Joseph Mohr and Franz Gruber created the familiar carol “Silent Night,” Angelus Silesius had written:

Lo! in the silent night a child to God is born,
And all is brought again that ere was lost or lorn.
Could but thy soul, O man, become a silent night
God would be born in thee and set all things aright.

Silesius, a Polish monk, published the poem in 1657 in The Cherubic Pilgrim.During our church’s annual Christmas Eve service, the choir sang a beautiful rendition of the song titled “Could but Thy Soul Become a Silent Night.”

The twofold mystery of Christmas is that God became one of us so that we might become one with Him. Jesus suffered everything that was wrong so that we could be made right. That’s why the apostle Paul could write, “If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone; the new is here! All this is from God who reconciled us to himself through Christ” (2 Cor. 5:17–18).

Whether our Christmas is filled with family and friends or empty of all we long for, we know that Jesus came to be born in us.

Ah, would thy heart but be a manger for the birth,
God would once more become a child on earth.

Lord Jesus, thank You for being born into this dark world so that we might be born again into Your life and light.

God became one of us so that we might become one with Him.

God’s Choir

By: Katy Kauffman, Author

angels-sky-nativity

Children’s choirs filled the steps and sang cherished Christmas songs. Little faces filled the big screens on the church walls, and parents took pictures of their kids during the annual family Christmas program.

Then the adult choir sang. The choir director, one of my favorites of any church, led the choir in beautiful ballads and gospel renditions of Christmas hymns. He appeared on screen a couple of times as he kept tempo, mouthed the words, and moved to the beat of the songs as he directed the choir.

Then it hit me. God is a master director. From the beginning of time, He has directed the dancing and swaying of stars and galaxies. He gave the birds their songs and the human spirit its hope. He orchestrated the coming of His Son to earth—prophesying Jesus’ arrival hundreds of years before it happened and moving heaven and earth to make the birth perfect. Yet, God’s definition of perfectwasn’t Jesus being born in a palace or grandeur. Perfect included a stable, a godly virgin, a caring carpenter, shepherds, angels, a shining star, and peace on earth.

And there was music.

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” Luke 2:14NKJV

Whether the angels sang these words or shouted them, I don’t know. But it was either a song or it was as beautiful as one. The glory of God was displayed at the angels’ appearing, and their message was that peace and goodwill had been born that night.

God’s choir today is you and me. Angels still do His bidding, but He calls us, His children, to “sing” for Him. To proclaim the gospel and to share the hope that life with God is possible. Every day God orchestrates the building of relationships and the timing of “chance” encounters, moving us into place so that we can share His truth and love with just the right person at the just the time.

Let’s be ready to sing! The Baby born in Bethlehem grew up to be the Man who died for the sin of every person who has lived or will ever live. Believing in Him gives us eternal life by the grace of God. And by the daily work of God in our lives, we can be His choir singing with our lives and our words that Jesus is both Savior and Lord.

Jesus is alive today, working with His people to spread the good news. This partnership of heart and work for God’s kingdom started with the disciples—“They went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word” (Mark 16:20 NKJV) that they shared.

How is God directing you to share His light and truth this Christmas? Don’t miss the chance to participate in God’s eternal song. Now and in the new year. God needs you in His choir. Are you singing?