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The Light Shines on a Dark Christmas

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The Light Shines on a Dark Christmas

holding a burning candle


The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine. Isaiah 9:2 NLT

Have you ever tried to celebrate Christmas while you were going through a painful season of life? Perhaps things were so dark you literally felt like you were under the shadow of death? In Corrie Ten Boom’s book, Corrie’s Christmas Memories, she recalls a Christmas she spent in Ravensbruck, a concentration camp she was sent to for helping hide Jews during World War II. Her sister, Betsie, had died only 11 days earlier. The day after Betsie passed, Corrie discovered she was released. In order to leave, though, Corrie needed a declaration of health from the camp doctor. Unfortunately, the doctor diagnosed her with edema, and he sent her to recover in the hospital barracks. Corrie describes that agonizing Christmas:

Dark it was in my heart, and darkness was around me… I tried to talk to the people around me about Christmas, but they mocked, ridiculed, and sneered at whatever I said.

In the middle of that lonely Christmas night, Corrie recalled hearing a “feeble-minded” girl in a bed near her calling out, “Mommy! Come to Oelie. Oelie feels so alone.” Knowing the girl’s mother could not go to Oelie, Corrie got up from her bed to comfort her. As a dim light shined through the window next to Oelie’s bed, Corrie could see that even though the girl was reduced to skin and bones, she still had a “sweet face, beautiful eyes and wavy hair.” Recovering from an operation, the incision on Oelie’s back was covered in nothing but a makeshift bandage of toilet paper. Corrie recalls what happened next:

That night I told this poor child about Jesus. How He came into the world as a little baby—how He came to save us from our sins.

“The Lord Jesus loves Oelie and has borne her punishment on the cross. Now Oelie may go to heaven, and Jesus is there right now. He is getting a little house ready for Oelie.” Later I asked her what she remembered of what I told her.

“What is the little house like?” I asked.

“It is very beautiful. There are no wicked people as in Ravensbruck—only good people and angels. And Oelie will see Jesus there.”

The child added, “I will ask Jesus to make me brave when I have pain. I will think of the pain that Jesus suffered to show Oelie the way to heaven.” Then Oelie folded her hands; together we gave thanks.

Then I knew why I had to spend this Christmas in Ravensbruck in 1944.
(excerpts from Corrie’s Christmas Memories, chapter 4, pages 56-57)

Jesus said, “I have come as a light to shine in this dark world, so that all who put their trust in me will no longer remain in the dark” (John 12:46). I love how Jesus met Corrie and Oelie in the hospital barracks of Ravensbruck, bringing love and light to one of the most horrific death camps in Germany.

If you are facing gloom, despair or darkness this Christmas, take heart. Just as Corrie found purpose in her pain, you can also ask Jesus, the “great light” of Christmas, to bring beauty and hope into your circumstances.

The Essential Message of Christmas

From: Crosswalk.com

“Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name ‘Immanuel,’ which is translated, ‘God with us.’ ” —Matthew 1:23

At this time of the year, we say, “Merry Christmas.” I prefer that to “Happy Holidays,” but I don’t get confrontational about it. Instead, I want to be gracious. After all, Christmas isn’t always a happy time for everyone. For someone who has lost their job, this is not the most wonderful time of the year, because so much emphasis is placed on a merry Christmas being a materialistic one.

There are also those who have lost loved ones. I am one of those people, and things that once made me happy at this time of year now make me sad. Those things that once brought happiness are now things that bring sadness, because they evoke memories of times we spent together. Therefore, Christmas becomes a difficult time for some.

There are many who are in need of encouragement at this time of year. They don’t need a Christmas present; they need His Christmas presence. They need to be reminded of what this season is all about. It is not about things. It is not about presents.

These things have their place, but we need to remember the essential message of Christmas, which is Immanuel—God is with us. And for the hurting person, the lonely person, the sorrowing person, this is the time of year to bring the gift of encouragement to them and say, “The message of Christmas is: God will be with you. God will help you. God will strengthen you.”

So look for opportunities to share the love of God during this season, because it is a time when we seem to be more open to engaging in conversation with others. Now is a great opportunity for you to bring encouragement to someone who is struggling. Who needs your encouragement today?

I Am the Way –

By: Emma Danzey, crosswalk.com

John 14:5-6 says, “Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?’Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’”

I have heard John 14:6 many times in my life and loved it, but never really pondered much about what was asked in the previous verse 5. Today as we look at Jesus as the Way, may we not forget the need for redemption, the need for direction, and the need for knowing how to be reunited with the Father through Jesus.

“Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?’”

Thomas has some high and low moments, like anyone in the Scriptures. He, unfortunately, got the title “Doubting Thomas” from the church because of his lack of faith in some scenarios; however, in this passage, even in his questioning, it leads to a wonderful answer. Thomas poses the question to Jesus, how can they know the way when they do not know where He is going? This is a valid question. Although Jesus was essentially telling them, He spoke in a way in which the disciples did not understand quite yet.

It is important for us to see that Jesus invites our questions. He is not unhappy with us just because we come to him with uncertainty. He welcomes us to Himself to provide the answers that we need. Sometimes those answers are unclear in the moment to us, but as we live and follow Christ, they became more clear. God could have explained to us many times part of His will, but without His Holy Spirit, we have no understanding of the spiritual. Thankfully, we have been given this gift as believers on this side of the resurrection. The disciples in this passage had yet to experience the Holy Spirit’s power and revelation in their lives.

Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life.’

I love this because Jesus answers point-blank. He does not speak in a parable or in some hidden form; He tells Thomas that He is the way, He is the truth, He is the life. When Thomas and the other followers of Jesus were looking for a way to the Father, Jesus told them that He would be the way. He was telling them that He would be the way to eternal life.

This is such a beautiful gift. Still, to this day, we do not have to wonder how to be forgiven for our sins or how to receive eternal life in heaven with God. Jesus has told us plainly in John 14:6.

“No one comes to the Father except through me.”

When people ask the question of how to get to heaven, John 14:5-6 is a great place to take them. In a world that tries to say, “All paths lead to the same place” or “your truth is your truth,” we have to pray and share the reality that if Jesus is the Savior of this world, He has made it clear that no one can come to Heaven and be with the Father except through Him. This is good news. Before Jesus, there was no hope and no way to have eternal life except the future hope of a Messiah and animal sacrifices to reveal faith for what was to come and cover sins. Now, we have confidence and peace that we can be sealed forever as His children.

What Christmas Is About?

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What Christmas Is About – Advent Devotional

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From: Crosswalk.com


What Christmas Is About

Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this. —Isaiah 9:7

As we look at our world today, we realize that part of the promise of Isaiah 9:6–7 has not yet been fulfilled. The Son has been given. The Child has been born. But He has not yet taken the government upon His shoulders. We do not yet have peace with judgment and justice. But the good news is that there will come a day when Christ will return. He will establish His kingdom on this earth. And it will be the righteous rule of God himself.

Before Jesus could take the government upon His shoulder, He had to take the cross upon His shoulder. Before He could wear the crown of glory as King of Kings, He had to wear the shameful crown of thorns and give His life as a sacrifice for the sins of the world. The first time, a star marked His arrival. But the next time He comes, the heavens will roll back like a scroll, all of the stars will fall from the sky, and He himself will light it.

Christ came to this earth. God came near to you so you can come near to Him—to give your life purpose and meaning, to forgive you of your sins, and to give you the hope of heaven beyond the grave. Christmas is not about tinsel or shopping or presents. Christmas is not about the gifts under the tree. Rather, Christmas is about the gift that was given on the tree when Christ died there for our sins and gave us the gift of eternal life.

Son of Abraham

Today Devotions

Genesis 17:9-14

On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus.

—  Luke 2:21

I hope you’re not squeamish, but today’s focus is circumcision, the cutting away of the foreskin. In North America, circumcision is fairly common. It’s usually done for medical reasons. But in the Bible, circumcision is performed as a sign of a special relationship with God.

It begins with Abraham and the covenant that God makes with him. God promises to bless Abraham and to bless all the peoples of the world through him (Genesis 12:2-3). And there’s more: “Every male among you [in your household] who is eight days old must be circumcised” (Genesis 17:12). That’s what God expects from Abraham and his descendants.

When the gospel writer Matthew tells the story of Jesus, he begins with Abraham. Because Jesus is a descendant of Abraham, Jesus is part of the covenant relationship that God made with Abraham. So Jesus is circumcised when he is eight days old.

Here’s what it adds up to. Jesus is as human as any of us, human enough to have part of his flesh cut away. But he is not just any human from anywhere. He is a Jew, a descendant of Abraham. And that makes him part of the one human family through whom God will bless all other human families, including yours and mine.

Joy to the World!

From: Today Devotions

Luke 2:1-7

She gave birth to her firstborn, a son.

—  Luke 2:7

Oh, the wonder of it! The Holy Spirit overshadows the virgin Mary so that a holy child is conceived in her womb. For nine months the child develops in watery darkness to the soundtrack of Mary’s heartbeat and muffled voice. At last the time comes. The child emerges, takes urgent breaths, and cries aloud amid faces beaming with hospitality and love. Welcome to the world!

Now let’s just take this in. Who doesn’t adore a sweet newborn? Bright eyes gazing around. Coos erupting after long months of silence. Arms and legs stretching out in new freedom.

Think too of the helplessness and vulnerability of the sweet child. Then imagine that this little one is our great God. The Word has no vocabulary, the Almighty has no strength, the Wise One has no knowledge. The Lord of all is completely dependent on the comforting arms and nourishing care of mother Mary.

It’s a wonder that God would become helpless in order to help us. But it’s not that merely an infant is helpless while we who are grown up have things in hand. In the big, wide world around us, we are pretty helpless too. And all our hope depends on the help of the helpless baby, whose birth we celebrate today.

Jesus, you come into the world, and everything is changed—because you em­braced helplessness to help the helpless. We praise you for your wonderful kindness. Amen.

Streams in the Desert – December 20

  • 2022 20 Dec

Look, a time is coming – and has come – when you will be scattered, each one to his own home, and I will be left alone. Yet I am not alone, because my Father is with me.John 16:32

It need not be said that to carry out conviction into action is a costly sacrifice. It may make necessary renunciations and separations which leave one to feel a strange sense both of deprivation and loneliness. But he who will fly, as an eagle does, into the higher levels where cloudless day abides, and live in the sunshine of God, must be content to live a comparatively lonely life.

No bird is so solitary as the eagle. Eagles never fly in flocks; one, or at most two, ever being seen at once. But the life that is lived unto God, however it forfeits human companionships, knows Divine fellowship.

God seeks eagle-men. No man ever comes into a realization of the best things of God, who does not, upon the Godward side of his life, learn to walk alone with God. We find Abraham alone in Horeb upon the heights, but Lot, dwelling in Sodom. Moses, skilled in all the wisdom of Egypt must go forty years into the desert alone with God. Paul, who was filled with Greek learning and had also sat at the feet of Gamaliel, must go into Arabia and learn the desert life with God. Let God isolate us. I do not mean the isolation of a monastery. In this isolating experience He develops an independence of faith and life so that the soul needs no longer the constant help, prayer, faith or attention of his neighbor. Such assistance and inspiration from the other members are necessary and have their place in the Christian’s development, but there comes a time when they act as a direct hindrance to the individual’s faith and welfare. God knows how to change the circumstances in order to give us an isolating experience. We yield to God and He takes us through something, and when it is over, those about us, who are no less loved than before, are no longer depended upon. We realize that He has wrought some things in us, and that the wings of our souls have learned to beat the upper air.

We must dare to be alone. Jacob must be left alone if the Angel of God is to whisper in his ear the mystic name of Shiloh; Daniel must be left alone if he is to see celestial visions; John must be banished to Patmos if he is deeply to take and firmly to keep “the print of heaven.”

He trod the wine-press alone. Are we prepared for a “splendid isolation” rather than fail Him?

There Is Hope In God

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How to Find Hope on a Long Silent Night

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by Alicia Bruxvoort, crosswalk.com

“That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them.” Luke 2:8-9a (NLT)

I sit alone near the window at the end of a long December day, my weary frame wrapped in a wordless sigh and a plush red blanket. The wintry woods beyond the glass are as quiet as my children who sleep down the hall.

Moonbeams mingle with the twinkling lights of our Christmas tree, and starlight waltzes with the shadows on the floor.

I take a deep breath and seek solace in the silence. But my heart refuses to rest in the hallowed hush.

For years, when my wee ones filled the nights with wails, I dreamed of a quiet like this.

But what I didn’t know then — when my midnight hours thrummed to the rhythm of sniffling sighs and colicky cries — is that children aren’t the only ones who can fill the night with clamor.

Sometimes the quiet quakes noisy, too.

Doubts drowned out by the drone of the day can resurrect with a ruckus in the lull of night. Fear can run wild when our feet finally slow. And worry can howl reckless in the hush.

It’s in the quiet where we often come face-to-face with our questions:

Do I really believe that God is good?
Does He truly see my needs and hear my prayers?
Do I trust Him enough to obey when it doesn’t make sense?
Will His promises hold firm even if my hope falls short?

It’s in the quiet where we learn to fight for faith.

So, I shift my eyes from that twinkling tree to the Bible on my lap. And I read aloud from those treasured pages.

“That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. ‘Don’t be afraid!’ he said. ‘I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior — yes, the Messiah, the Lord — has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger” (Luke 2:8-12, NLT).

God’s Word dangles in the air like the velvet stockings hanging hopeful on my mantle. I close my eyes and try to listen to the truth of Scripture rather than the squall of my own soul.

I imagine the Hope of Heaven landing on the dust of earth … the squeals of fright and the blaze of light. The angel’s declaration and the shepherds’ consternation.

And I ask Jesus to show me something new in this familiar account of the very first Christmas.

Then all at once, I see it through a haze of grateful tears:

The message the angels proclaimed on that Bethlehem hillside long ago didn’t just change the course of one bygone silent night.

The good news of great joy changed the course of every silent night to come. Because we don’t have a God who merely pierces our darkness. We have a Savior who lingers beside us on our long silent nights (Isaiah 9:2-7).

The prophets foretold it (Isaiah 7:14). The angel repeated it. And His name confirms it (Matthew 1:23). God is with us.

And in His presence, we can find everything we need when the quiet quakes noisy.

Jesus the Blur

John 19:1-7

From: Today’s Devotions

“I am God and not a man.”

—  Hosea 11:9

There is a clear and great distinction between God, who is the Creator, and the creation, which is God’s handiwork. God is forever; creation is for a while. God is perfect; creation, at its best, is very good. Creation contains life; God is life.

That great distinction gets blurred by the incarnation, when the Creator God takes on created flesh. For nine months, God takes shape in Mary’s womb. Then, over time, God the baby becomes God the man.

Think about what this means. God stands on human legs and sees with human eyes. God thinks with a human brain, speaks with a human voice, and loves with a human heart. And at the end, God suffers blows and barbs in his human flesh, and he bears humiliation and shame in his human soul.

A whip tears up Jesus’ back. Thorns pierce his brow. Slaps burn his face. Along with the thorny crown, a robe of royal purple completes the mocking picture of Jesus as a pathetic nobody, worthy only of pity.

“Look at this guy!” Pilate says with scorn in his voice (John 19:4-5). Yes, look at him. Jesus is just a blur, about to be smudged out. He looks nothing like God and nothing like a king. And that’s the wonder of it. Because Jesus, the broken man, is God and King.

Climb Together – Streams in the Desert – December 19

  • 2022 19 Dec

This will be a time for you to serve as witnesses.Luke 21:13

Life is a steep climb, and it does the heart good to have somebody “call back” and cheerily beckon us on up the high hill. We are all climbers together, and we must help one another. This mountain climbing is serious business, but glorious. It takes strength and steady step to find the summits. The outlook widens with the altitude. If anyone among us has found anything worth while, we ought to “call back.”

If you have gone a little way ahead of me, call back—
’Twill cheer my heart and help my feet along the stony track;
And if, perchance, Faith’s light is dim, because the oil is low,
Your call will guide my lagging course as wearily I go.

Call back, and tell me that He went with you into the storm;
Call back, and say He kept you when the forest’s roots were torn;
That, when the heavens thunder and the earthquake shook the hill,
He bore you up and held you where the very air was still.

Oh, friend, call back, and tell me for I cannot see your your face,
They say it glows with triumph, and your feet bound in the race;
But there are mists between us and my spirit eyes are dim,
And I cannot see the glory, though I long for word of Him.

But if you’ll say He heard you when your prayer was but a cry,
And if you’ll say He saw you through the night’s sin-darkened sky
If you have gone a little way ahead, oh, friend, call back—
’Twill cheer my heart and help my feet along the stony track.

An Introduction to Christ

We will one day see Jesus in all His glory and discover even more wondrous things about Him.

Revelation 1:4-8

In the last verse of his Gospel, John says much more could have been written about the things Jesus did—but the world wouldn’t be able to contain that many books (John 21:25). In today’s passage, the same writer gives a compact summation, highlighting the Lord’s identity and work. He tells us that Jesus Christ is …

The faithful witness. Jesus came to earth as God’s witness. The words He spoke and the works He accomplished were only what His Father commanded (John 12:49-50; John 17:4).

The firstborn from the dead. His was the first resurrection, and it is the guarantee that we will be resurrected in the same way (Romans 6:5).

The ruler of the kings of the earth. He establishes kingdoms and tears them down, and the book of Revelation describes how He will one day take dominion of the entire world.

The one who loves us and has released us from our sins. All our wrongdoing is forgiven.

This is our amazing Savior, and we can look forward to a future with Him that is secure and glorious. Read the rest of Revelation 1 with the awareness that you will one day see the Lord in all His glory.

The Eternal Purpose Of Christmas

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The Eternal Purpose of Christmas



It’s interesting that Jesus made a significant statement about His birth just before His death. During Jesus’ trial, Pilate asked about His identity. Jesus replied,

“For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth” (John 18:37b, NASB)

Jesus didn’t say He was born to preach or heal — but that His fundamental purpose was to witness to the truth.

Pilate then asked, “What is truth?” But he was in too much of a hurry to wait for the answer. How many of us are like that today? Sometimes it takes a tragedy, such as a death in the family or terrorist attacks, before people take time to measure their lives against what is genuinely meaningful and true.

When a carpenter says, “I’m going to true up a piece of wood,” he lines up a board to conform with the standard of a plumb line. Opinions don’t count — only the truth.

Down through the ages, Jesus declares,

“I am the way and the truth and the life. … Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 14:6a, 8:32)

Jesus came into the world bearing a message of paramount importance: God is our creator, sustainer and redeemer; to see the Father, we must look at His Son.

The reason Jesus was born is that we might know God! This is why we celebrate Christmas with such joy year after year. Through Jesus — called “Emmanuel,” God with us — God is indeed with us in youth and old age, in good times and bad, in tragedy and triumph.

But in bringing us this wonderful message, Jesus goes a step further — and entrusts us with the tremendous responsibility of sharing God’s Word with others.

“You will be my witnesses … to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8b)

Today’s Devotions

December 18

Jeremiah 30:21-22 21Their leader will be one of their own; their ruler will arise from among them. I will bring him near and he will come close to me, for who is he who will devote himself to be close to me?’ declares the LORD. 22″‘So you will be my people, and I will be your God.'”

“He came unto His own, and His own received Him not.” John 1:10 (KJV) In the promises of restoration, there are a number of prophecies concerning the coming Messiah. In this one the Messiah is prophesied to rise from among them. He would not land in a spaceship or come from another land, neither would He be another type of creation. He would be an Israelite human. But what is it that makes Him different?

God says that the He will draw the Messiah near and He will come close. God draws us all near. The great difference is the Messiah never resisted that drawing of God. He yielded every time and came near. He devoted Himself to be close to His Father. Because of that the church was born. That is how we became His people. Jesus obedience, even unto death, made a way for us to be the people of God. He made it possible for God to be our God. “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the power to become the sons of God.” John 1:12 (KJV)

He also made it possible for the promise of the Father to be sent, the Holy Spirit. Now we, too, can draw near to God. But it is our choice! Will we draw close? Will we devote ourselves to be close to Him? How much time will we spend in communion with Him in prayer and the Word? You can see those that do. They are easily distinguishable by their passion and love for God. In a life changing way, God has become their God.

Consider: Will you devote yourself to be close to Him?

There are Spoils to be Taken – Streams in the Desert – December 18

  • 2022 18 Dec

No, in all these things we have complete victory through him who loved us! —Rom 8:37

The Gospel is so arranged and the gift of God so great that you may take the very enemies that fight you and the forces that are arrayed against you and make them steps up to the very gates of heaven and into the presence of God.

Like the eagle, who sits on a crag and watches the sky as it is filling with blackness, and the forked lightnings are playing up and down, and he is sitting perfectly still, turning one eye and then the other toward the storm. But he never moves until he begins to feel the burst of the breeze and knows that the hurricane has struck him; with a scream, he swings his breast to the storm, and uses the storm to go up to the sky; away he goes, borne upward upon it.

That is what God wants of every one of His children, to be more than conqueror, turning the storm-cloud into a chariot. You know when one army is more than conqueror it is likely to drive the other from the field, to get all the ammunition, the food and supplies, and to take possession of the whole. That is just what our text means. There are spoils to be taken!

Beloved, have you got them? When you went into that terrible valley of suffering did you come out of it with spoils? When that injury struck you and you thought everything was gone, did you so trust in God that you came out richer than you went in? To be more than conqueror is to take the spoils from the enemy and appropriate them to yourself. What he had arranged for your overthrow, take and appropriate for yourself.

When Dr. Moon, of Brighton, England, was stricken with blindness, he said “Lord, I accept this talent of blindness from Thee. Help me to use it for Thy glory that at Thy coming Thou mayest receive Thine own with usury.” Then God enabled him to invent the Moon Alphabet for the blind, by which thousands of blind people were enabled to read the Word of God, and many of them were gloriously saved.

God did not take away Paul’s thorn; He did better—He mastered that thorn, and made it Paul’s servant. The ministry of thorns has often been a greater ministry to man than the ministry of thrones.

Sunday Reflection: The Power of Love

From: Intouch ministries

God is faithful to His people, even during their times of failure.

To get the most out of this devotion, set aside time to read the scriptures referenced throughout.The Bible is filled with love. It begins with God’s mighty acts of creation—separating light from darkness, filling the firmament, and creating every living thing, including us (Genesis 1:1-31; Genesis 2:1-25). Even after Adam and Eve sinned, divine love never faltered. Instead of eternally condemning His children, God promised salvation (Genesis 3:15; Romans 16:20).

As the story continues, we see love at work as God dwelt with His people in the wilderness, the Promised Land, and in exile. Even when Israel doubted, even when they disobeyed, God remained faithful. And in His love, He led them back and carried them through all manner of suffering.

But He didn’t stop there. Scripture tells us, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16). God’s love transformed the world. It also transformed us so that we might love more abundantly and fulfill the calling from our beautiful Lord and Savior (1 John 4:7-12).

Never Lose Your Wonder

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Never Lose Your Wonder

smiling child laying on the floor and coloring on paper


There is something about this season that makes me think of childlike faith.

No one fully revels in the Christmas season like a child. They have the faith to believe that they will receive the pony they crave or the ridiculously expensive Lego set. They are unstoppable!

There are likely endless articles that you could read about childlike faith. I’m not touching on something that we are unfamiliar with. The concept is written about in the Bible (Matthew 18:3, Mark 10:14-15, Luke 18:7) and is taught in churches across the globe. But how about if, this year, we stopped amidst the information overflow and considered something a little deeper than childlike faith?

What about wonder?

A close friend has recently given birth to a beautiful baby boy and he is just perfect. He has a cute button nose and soft baby skin. He’s amazing. I can completely grasp the concept of ‘baby-gazing’ (where you spend hours simply staring at a newborn baby!)

However, the thing that struck me most when holding my friend’s newborn baby was how his eyes sparkled in the glow of the fairy lights in my home. Now, I know that his vision has not necessarily developed enough to be able to see the lights clearly, but there was something about the motion of the pulsing lights that drew his attention and he was undoubtedly gazing at the gentle warmth of the fairy lights.

A child has a sense of wonder that I believe we can lose as adults.

We are surrounded every day by miracles. The very fact that you exist is a miracle! How can we become so familiar with such wonderful realities?

I’m not suggesting that we should walk around with our mouths permanently wide open because of the wonder that surrounds us but, at this time of year, in particular, I think it is fitting to pause and remember wonder.

What makes you say ‘wow’?

Is it the thought of the seemingly endless galaxy we live in?

Is it a newborn baby?

Is it a beautiful bride in her crisp white gown and veil?

For me, it’s the sea. Whenever I’m near the sea I get a sense of wonder. I think it’s because of its sheer magnitude. And depth. The thought of being placed in the very middle of the vast ocean is enough to have me breathing very heavily!

The sea can give you a sense of perspective that few other natural phenomena can. It puts your size, frailty, and mortality into harsh reality.

Perhaps there is room for considering the wonder of Christmas again this year.

There is a song by Bethel music that has the most captivating lyrics around the concept of wonder. It speaks of never losing our wonder and uses the words “Wide-eyed and mystified” in describing it.

Wide-eyed and mystified.


It’s no problem if some things confuse us due to their grandeur. It’s beautiful! God’s ways are higher than ours, His thoughts infinitely beyond our own.

This Christmas, I encourage you to take out your Bible (I would advise a paper Bible so that you’re not distracted by your phone alerts!) and turn to one of the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ birth.

Allow the immaculate conception, the remarkable birth, and the subsequent celebration to wash over you anew. Allow salvation and eternity to puzzle you and be encouraged by thoughts of Heaven.

I pray that we never lose our sense of wonder and that, this Christmastime, we each find something new to marvel at. Bless you.

Streams in the Desert – December 17

  • 2022 17 Dec

Now may the God of peace himself make you completely holy and may your spirit and soul and body be kept entirely blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is trustworthy, and he will in fact do this. —1 Thess 5:23-24

Many years since I saw that “without holiness no man shall see the Lord.” I began by following after it and inciting all with whom I had intercourse to do the same. Ten years after, God gave me a clearer view than I ever had before of the way to obtain it; namely, by faith in the Son of God. And immediately I declared to all, “We are saved from sin, we are made holy by faith.” This I testified in private, in public, and in print, and God confirmed it by a thousand witnesses. I have continued to declare this for above thirty years, and God has continued to confirm my work.
John Wesley in 1771

“I knew Jesus, and He was very precious to my soul; but I found something in me that would not keep sweet and patient and kind. I did what I could to keep it down, but it was there. I besought Jesus to do something for me, and, when I gave Him my will, He came to my heart, and took out all that would not be sweet, all that would not be kind, all that would not be patient, and then HE shut the door.”
George Fox

My whole heart has not one single grain, this moment, of thirst after approbation. I feel alone with God; He fills the void; I have not one wish, one will, one desire, but in Him; He hath set my feet in a large room. I have wondered and stood amazed that God should make a conquest of all within me by love.
Lady Huntington

“All at once I felt as though a hand—not feeble, but omnipotent; not of wrath, but of love—was laid on my brow. I felt it not outwardly but inwardly. It seemed to press upon my whole being, and to diffuse all through me a holy, sin-consuming energy. As it passed downward, my heart as well as my head was conscious of the presence of this soul-cleansing energy, under the influence of which I fell to the floor, and in the joyful surprise of the moment, cried out in a loud voice. Still the hand of power wrought without and within; and wherever it moved, it seemed to leave the glorious influence of the Saviour’s image. For a few minutes the deep ocean of God’s love swallowed me up; all its waves and billows rolled over me.”
Bishop Hamline

This Christmas, Receive the Best Gift Ever Given – Advent Devotional – December 17

By Rick Warren, crosswalk.com

“By entering through faith into what God has always wanted to do for us — set us right with him, make us fit for him — we have it all together with God because of our Master Jesus” (Romans 5:1 The Message).

God knew before you were born that you would be reading this in this moment. He planned to get your attention for just a few seconds so he could say this to you: “I’ve seen every hurt in your life, and I’ve never stopped loving you. You matter to me. I love you more than you will ever know. I made you to love you, and I’ve been waiting for you to love me back.”

If you gave me a Christmas gift and I never opened it, you would be disappointed. And it would be a worthless gift, because I don’t receive the benefit of a gift I never opened.

Jesus Christ is God’s Christmas gift to you. Yet some of us have gone Christmas after Christmas and never opened the best gift of all: God’s gift of salvation. Why even celebrate Christmas if you’re not going to open the biggest gift? It doesn’t make sense to leave unwrapped the gift of your past forgiven, a purpose for living, and a home in Heaven.

God has made a way for you this Christmas to be right with him, and all you have to do is receive his gift of salvation. The Bible says, “By entering through faith into what God has always wanted to do for us — set us right with him, make us fit for him — we have it all together with God because of our Master Jesus” (Romans 5:1 The Message).

Today’s Devotions

December 17

Jeremiah 29:11-13 11For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

Though the LORD was speaking this to Judah, it is true for all who seek Him. He has good plans for all who would seek Him with their whole heart. Sometimes we have a subconscious idea of God as the big policeman in the sky. He does execute justice, but in doing so He turns us from evil.

He has an intended plan for every life. It is a good and prosperous plan. It is better than we could possibly plan for ourselves. His desire is for our good. If we could grasp that our Creator wants to bless us and be a Father and friend to us, our whole outlook on life would change. That simple understanding would end most depression in the world today. Why do we think He is out to harm us? That is Satan’s goal, not God’s.

When the people of Judah were restored from captivity, they learned a lesson from their punishment. They had a more serious attitude toward God’s instruction. They made mistakes, but on the whole they were willing to receive instruction. When our hearts are in that condition, we pray for things that are in line with God’s will for us, and God hears us. We seek His presence and He is there, meeting us as we pray. It must be a wholehearted seeking, because He deserves nothing less.

Prayer: Lord, help me to seek You with all my heart!

Beware Of Greed and Covetousness

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Gummy Bear Decisions

girl holding a cookie while using her laptop


Diane Stevenson , cbn.com

Have you ever made a decision you regretted later?

Maybe you decided to do something that would offer a moment of pleasure, but the end result wasn’t so pleasant. For example, have you ever been thirsty, and instead of reaching for a bottle of water, you chose a soda or coffee, or even a milkshake?

Or have you ever been hungry, but instead of getting a healthy meal, you chose fast food? We all know what the better choices are. However, we sometimes accept less than the best and pay for it later.

It seems like we live in a world where unhealthy choices are the norm and even preferred. I must say I have been guilty of making wrong choices—and even justifying my decision with: “It is too expensive to eat healthy” or “It’s not convenient” or “It just doesn’t taste as good.”

I remember when I was taking classes at Regent University, pursuing my degree in leadership. I would stay up late working on my papers—with a few bags of gummy bears right next to my stack of books. I convinced myself it was the only way I could stay focused while I studied.

Well, as you can imagine, after eating those gummies every night, I experienced the worst upset stomach, and I felt like I was bloated and just miserable. Of course, there were better food choices, like grapes or apple slices, but my decision was based on instant gratification and my sweet tooth rather than my health and wellbeing.

Making quality decisions is important, and it determines our quality of life. Every decision comes with an action, and every action comes with a consequence. And every consequence affects our quality of life.

In the book of Amos, chapters 4 to 6, the children of Israel made decisions that were contrary to the will and way of God, and, therefore, faced very difficult consequences for their actions.

The Lord God Almighty wanted nothing more than for the children of Israel to turn back to Him and lay aside their sinful ways. He even said to them, “Seek Me and live” (Amos 5:4 NKJV), and it is repeated in verse 6 with “Seek the LORD and live.

I love that even when we make poor decisions, our loving God and Father always shows us the way back to Him and what is right. In fact, the Bible is full of stories that teach us the importance of doing what is right in the sight of God and not man.

There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death (Proverbs 14:12).

If there is anything that causes us to walk contrary to the will, the way, and the Word of God, we must make the decision to let it go and live for Christ. There are so many temptations that capture our attention and pull us away from righteous living and the things of God, but we must resist them at all costs.

“For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” (Mark 8:36).

So, be careful of gummy bear decisions.


Today’s Devotions


December 16

Jeremiah 23:3-5 3“I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them and will bring them back to their pasture, where they will be fruitful and increase in number. 4I will place shepherds over them who will tend them, and they will no longer be afraid or terrified, nor will any be missing,” declares the LORD. 5“The days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will raise up to David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land.

The chapter begins with the LORD rebuking the unfaithful shepherds for scattering the flock of God. Then the LORD says that He will gather them from wherever they have been scattered and place shepherds over them. Like many prophecies, this has an immediate and final fulfillment. The people of Judah were soon to come back from Babylon and would become fruitful and increase. They were gathered from wherever they were scattered in 1948 and became very fruitful and increased even more. Ultimately this may refer to Second Coming. In the rapture Jesus will gather His sheep from wherever they are scattered. Is there any other way to see the total lack of fear and none missing? In the other restorations some did not return. Fear was a daily part of life then and now. But when the LORD returns, He will sit a King and reign in righteousness and justice. We can look forward to that day with hope and expectation.

Jesus is referred to as the righteous Branch that is raised up to David. He was of the lineage of David. Several places in Scripture we have a picture of a lineage as a tree. There has never been a king over the land, descended from David, who was righteous, since that prophecy. But that day is coming.

Consider: We can look forward to the just and righteous reign of our King, the King of kings, the Branch of David.

A message from God to his church and people

‘O Lord, I have heard thy speech, and was afraid: O Lord, revive thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make known; in wrath remember mercy.’ Habakkuk 3:2

Suggested Further Reading: Psalm 85:1–13

O God, have mercy upon thy poor church, and visit her, and revive her. She has but a little strength; she has desired to keep thy word; refresh her; restore to her thy power, and give her yet to be great in this land. Mercy is also wanted for the land itself. This is a wicked nation, this England; its wickedness belongs to all classes. Sin runs down our streets; we have a fringe of elegant morality, but behind it we have a mass of rottenness. There is not only the immorality of the streets at night, but look at the dishonesty of business men in high places. Cheating and thieving upon the grandest scale are winked at. Little thieves are punished, and great thieves are untouched. This is a wicked city, this city of London, and the land is full of drunkenness, fornication, theft, and popish idolatry. I am not the proper prophet to take up this burden; my temperament is not that of Jeremiah; but I may at least, with Habakkuk, having heard the Lord’s speech concerning it, be afraid, and exhort you to pray for this land, and be asking that God would revive his work, in order that this drunkenness may be given up, that this dishonesty may be purged out, that this great social evil may be cut out from the body politic, as a deadly cancer is cut out by the surgeon’s knife. O God, for mercy’s sake, cast not off this island of the seas, give her not up to internal distraction, leave her not in darkness and blackness for ever, but ‘revive thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make known; in wrath remember mercy.’

For meditation: Despite the 1859 revival, the late nineteenth century in Britain was clearly not ‘the good old days’; the early twenty first century is certainly ‘the bad new days.’ Sin is still a reproach to any people (Proverbs 14:34). Pray that God will revive us again, that his people may rejoice in him (Psalm 85:6) and that righteousness may again exalt a nation (Proverbs 14:34).

Creation Perfected

Revelation 21:1-4

God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.

—  Genesis 1:31

Careful readers have noticed that God’s creation in Genesis 1 looks like a temple. A temple is a place where heaven and earth meet. So in Genesis 2-3, God comes to the creation-temple to interact with his creatures.

Careful readers have also noticed that God’s temple in 1 Kings 6-7 looks like crea­tion. God was present in the temple, and once a year the high priest could be there too (Leviticus 16).

Sometimes people say that the creation was perfect, until sin messed things up. Well, sin did mess things up. It still does. But the creation was never perfect. It was just very good. There isn’t perfection until the end, until there is a new heaven and earth.

In the new heaven and earth, there will be no temple (Revelation 21:22) because the new heaven and earth won’t intersect at just one place. Instead they will be united as one new reality. In this new reality, the home of God is with humanity. That’s how God wants things to be and has always wanted things to be—with heaven and earth united.

The incarnation reflects this intention. Jesus himself is the new temple (John 2:19-21). Jesus himself is where heaven and earth meet. And in his person, God and humanity are united. That’s not just very good. It’s perfect.

Where Is Our Hope?

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Where Is Our Hope?



Recently, the whole world began to recover from the repercussions of a pandemic that had profound consequences. Now, instead of hearing about hopeful situations, we are faced with rumors of economic recession and conflicts that damage the nations.

All of this coincides perfectly with Revelation 6, concerning the absence of peace, of epidemics and famine, and even the accelerated increase in prices that should be expected in the end times. The chapter concludes with some verses that clarify that neither wealth, military power, nor social influence can be enough to win in these situations.

Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and everyone else, both slave and free, hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. They called to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can withstand it?” Revelation 6:15-17 NIV

Given this, it is natural to question ourselves about where to find hope and how to transmit it to others who suffer. While the conditions of this world do not seem to improve, we cannot always promise those who face the most complex crises that their conditions are going to be different soon.

However, considering that our role in this world will continue to be that of bringing light in the midst of darkness, we cannot give up on the task of bringing hope to others. We must refocus our efforts to lead those who suffer to a truth that can fill their hearts with peace and generate confidence for a better future.

Together with an international team from Operation Blessing, I have had the opportunity to be part of recent projects on the border area between Poland and Ukraine that provide help to those most affected by the war. It is precisely in these scenarios that we realize our hope cannot rest on temporary things. Temporary things can easily disappear before your eyes, as millions of Ukrainians today have seen their stable jobs, their homes, their families, or even their dreams disappear.

The book of Romans, in chapter 8, reminds us that suffering is part of this world, and that even Jesus suffered during His passage through this Earth. But at the same time, it fills us with hope by reminding us of what His promise is for those who put their trust in Him.

Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. Romans 8:17-18 NIV

If you are experiencing a season of deep pain, and suffering is the daily reality in which you live, I remind you that these scenarios are a perfect opportunity to get closer to Jesus and to get to know Him in a more personal way. He fully understands your pain. He will accompany you in your suffering—and He is the only One who can give you access to the truth of a better future and eternal life with him.

Let us pray… Father God, through Your Son, Jesus, and by the power of Your Holy Spirit, we thank You for helping us in our time of need. We thank You that You are a good, good Father who watches over us all the time, including in difficult and challenging seasons. Reveal to us that You are right beside us, walking us through to better days, both on this earth and later with You in heaven. Remind us how much You love us and that Your Word (Hebrews 13:5) promises us You will never leave us, never forsake us. Amen!

Today’s Devotions


December 15

Jeremiah 20:8-9,11 8Whenever I speak, I cry out proclaiming violence and destruction. So the word of the LORD has brought me insult and reproach all day long. 9But if I say, “I will not mention him or speak any more in his name,” his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.

11But the LORD is with me like a mighty warrior; so my persecutors will stumble and not prevail. They will fail and be thoroughly disgraced; their dishonor will never be forgotten.

Jeremiah complained that God didn’t tell him all that he was getting into when he was called to be a prophet. God never tells us everything upfront, for that wouldn’t be good for us. God will tell us what we are able to hear when we are able to hear it.

Jeremiah was proclaiming a message among people who hated what he had to say. This made him the object of mockery and scorn. There were even plots to assassinate him. Jeremiah wanted to quit speaking God’s words. There was one problem. The word was in his heart like a fire. If he tried to hold it in, it would weary him with effort. He just couldn’t keep quiet.

Jeremiah was proclaiming destruction and misery, but we have the words of life to proclaim. How blessed we are that our message is one of hope and salvation. Yet it is also a message of the Lordship of Jesus Christ. In that sense it is like Jeremiah’s message. We are preaching the need to surrender. People will mock and scorn us as they did Jeremiah, because they do not want to change their ways. We may want to quit speaking the truth, just as Jeremiah did, but His word is in us like a pent-up fire.

Consider: We have one great consolation. The LORD is with you, reader. He is with you like a mighty warrior.

Streams in the Desert – December 15

  • 2022 15 Dec

Trust in the Lord and do what is right! Settle in the land and maintain your integrity! —Ps 37:3

The word trust is the heart word of faith. It is the Old Testament word, the word given to the early and infant stage of faith. The word faith expresses more the act of the will, the word belief the act of the mind or intellect, but trust is the language of the heart. The other has reference more to a truth believed or a thing expected.

Trust implies more than this, it sees and feels, and leans upon a person, a great, true, living heart of love. So let us “trust also in him,” through all the delays, in spite of all the difficulties, in the face of all the denials, notwithstanding all the seemings, even when we cannot understand the way, and know not the issue; still “trust also in him, and he will bring it to pass.” The way will open, the right issue will come, the end will be peace, the cloud will be lifted, and the light of an eternal noonday shall shine at last.

Trust and rest when all around thee
Puts thy faith to sorest test;
Let no fear or foe confound thee,
Wait for God and trust and rest.

“Trust and rest with heart abiding,
Like a birdling in its nest,
Underneath His feathers hiding,
Fold thy wings and trust and rest

Grateful for Christmas

By Meg Bucher

“Thank God for this gift too wonderful for words!” – 2 Corinthians 9:15 NLT

The holiday season kicks off with a reminder to be thankful. Gratitude is a powerful mentality. When we force a smile onto our faces, it actually triggers positive thoughts in our minds! The world is a difficult place, but God is bigger. His faithfulness gives us strength. God loves us so much, He sent His Son, Jesus, to earth to save us.

“For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6 NLT

To this, let us force our faces into a smile if we have to this holiday season, in gratitude for:

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

Jesus has the authority to forgive sin. We cannot remove the guilt and shame that the world and our enemy heaps on us for everything we are acutely aware we miss the mark on. But God doesn’t see us that way. He chooses to view us through the filter of forgiveness we receive through Christ Jesus. When we confess our sins, we are forgiven. The weight of guilt and shame have no power over us.

All right then, the Lord himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God with us’).” Isaiah 7:14 NLT


God Restores Time

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God Restores Time



Lorie Hartshorn – CBN. com

Have you ever wanted to turn back time? The truth is, time is something we never get back. Maybe this leaves you feeling regretful or sad about years that have been wasted or time not well spent on the things that really matter. Here is some powerful encouragement for all of us today. God promises that He takes back time!

“I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten—the great locust and the young locust, the other locusts and the locust swarm—my great army that I sent among you” (Joel 2:25 NIV).

This promise was given to God’s people who had suffered the complete destruction of their harvest through swarms of locusts. For four consecutive years, the harvest had been completely wiped out. God’s people were brought to their knees.

But God had compassion on His people, and in the coming years, there would be an abundance that would make up for what had been lost.

Be glad, people of Zion, rejoice in the Lord your God, for he has given you the autumn rains because he is faithful. He sends you abundant showers, both autumn and spring rains, as before. The threshing floors will be filled with grain; the vats will overflow with new wine and oil (Joel 2:23-24).

This wonderful promise meant that years of abundant harvests would follow the years of desolation brought about by the locusts. And God has put this promise in the Bible for us today, as well.

What do “lost years” look like for us? They can come in many varieties: painful, fruitless, selfish, loveless, rebellious or unproductive. Do you hear what Scripture is telling us? God can restore your lost “locust” years. He does so in a very personal way.

The word restore literally means “comfort and redemption.” The story of Ruth and Boaz illustrates this, and you can read the book of Ruth for the full details. Boaz acts as Ruth’s kinsman redeemer by making a commitment to stand up and champion her as a member of his family. It was a decisive action on his part to pay whatever it cost for Ruth and her family to have freedom, release and restoration.  All the broken years of Ruth’s life were restored through this act of Boaz, who paid the cost and welcomed her into his family.

Do you see it? That’s what Jesus does for us. He sees our broken past, our years that the enemy has stolen from us, and He paid the ultimate cost with His very life so that we can be free, released from the past and restored into a new life—an abundant life!

“You will have plenty to eat, until you are full, and you will praise the name of the Lord your God, who has worked wonders for you; never again will my people be shamed. Then you will know that I am in Israel, that I am the Lord your God, and that there is no other; never again will my people be shamed” (Joel 2:26-27).

I know this to be true. God brought comfort and redemption to me and my family after years that the enemy had stolen. God gave us Himself, He comforted us, and He is giving us a bountiful harvest that we could never have imagined. He will take what seems like a waste and turn it into something beautiful if we let Him. Our lost years are not lost with God. He is a God that takes back time and turns it into a bumper crop! That is courageous living.


Streams in the Desert – December 14

  • 2022 14 Dec

His disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray… and he said unto them, “When ye pray, say… Thy kingdom come” (Luke 11:1-2).

When they said, “Teach us to pray,” the Master lifted His eyes and swept the far horizon of God. He gathered up the ultimate dream of the Eternal, and, rounding the sum of everything God intends to do in the life of man, He packed it all into these three terse pregnant phrases and said, “When you pray, pray after this manner.” What a contrast between this and much praying we have heard.

When we follow the devices of our own hearts, how runs it? “O Lord bless me, then My family, My church, My city, My country,” and away on the far fringe as we close up, there is a prayer for the extension of His Kingdom throughout the wide parish of the world.

The Master begins where we leave off. The world first, my personal needs second, is the order of this prayer. Only after my prayer has crossed every continent and every  far-flung island of the sea, after it has taken in the last man in the last backward race, after it has covered the entire wish and purpose, of God for the world, only then am I taught to ask for a piece of bread for myself.

When Jesus gave His all, Himself for us and to us in the holy extravagance of the Cross, is it too much if He asks us to do the same thing? No man or woman amounts to anything in the kingdom, no soul ever touches even the edge of the zone of power, until this lesson is learned that Christ‘s business is the supreme concern of life and that all personal considerations, however dear or important, are tributary thereto.
–Dr. Francis


Fixing Our Eyes on Jesus This Christmas

By Lynette Kittle

“Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before Him He endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” – Hebrews 12:2

It’s easy to get caught up in all the various holiday events that take place during the Christmas season: running from place to place, shopping for gifts, attending holiday parties, and preparing festive meals. In the rush and excitement of it all, it’s easy to get caught up in it and take our eyes off the real focal point of Christmas, Jesus, our prefect gift from our loving, heavenly Father (John 3:16).

Putting Gift Giving in Perspective
The desire we have to give comes from God. He is the ultimate giver, proving over and over again by His generous heart toward us. Because we are made in His image, our hearts are created and moved to give, too. However, even though giving is a God-thing motivated by love, sinful thoughts and attitudes can corrupt motives behind it, causing many to give for the wrong reasons, such as wanting to be accepted or to impress others. As well as giving to receive something in return or to buy or manipulate favors from others. All year long, and especially at Christmas, we want to keep our hearts and minds focused on God’s leading in giving to each other, asking Him to guide us in giving gifts that meet needs, and ones that have lasting and eternal value.

Guarding Our Thoughts and Minds during Holiday Movies
More than ever, Christmas holidays are marked now by watching countless Christmas movies. Along with the Hallmark Network, now Great American Family and Lifetime Networks are airing Christmas movie marathons 24/7. For Hallmark especially, most storylines never mention Jesus or leave Him totally out of the picture. So is it okay for us as Christians to watch them? Watching faithless films requires us to keep a guard over our hearts and minds, aware of how easily holiday glitz and glitter is able to lead us astray from focusing on God’s gift of eternal life through Jesus. If not kept in check, over time, the superficial holiday glamour starts to turn our thoughts to how, where, and when we will celebrate Christmas rather than looking at the One we are celebrating.

As long as we keep aware of how these movies-minus-Jesus have the potential to influence and shape our thoughts about Christmas, we can watch their entertaining holiday themes, keeping in mind how they are missing the mark when it comes to communicating the Season’s real meaning.

Filtering Jesus-less Messaging
With all of the Christ-less messaging surrounding us this time of year, we want to recognize that even though many offer bright, colorful, warm, and magical holiday atmospheres, they are selling us worldly views and outlooks concerning the meaning of Christmas. We want to recognize how Jesus-less celebrating leaves us feeling empty in the end because Santa, elves, Christmas cookies, hot cocoa, and colorful lights, overall, leave us without the hope that comes through the true, hope-filled biblical story of Christmas. Christmas without Jesus will always come up short because without Him, there is no reason to celebrate. If Jesus hadn’t been born, there would be no Savior for a fallen world that is lost, broken, and hopeless without Him.

Concentrating on the True Joy of Christmas
Fixating on holiday extras causes us to miss the true joy of the Season. Luke 2:10 explains the origin of this joy. “But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.” Whereas the world offers us temporary, surface forms of holiday cheer and happiness, the Season’s true joy is found in Jesus, a joy full and satisfying every day of our lives (John 15:11), the kind that daily strengthens and sustains us (Philippians 4:13).

Extraordinarily Ordinary

From: Today Devotions

John 4:1-8

“Will you give me a drink?”

—  John 4:7

John 4 tells about an encounter between Jesus and a Samaritan woman at a place called Jacob’s well. Through their conversation something of the glory of Jesus is revealed. It’s enough to convince the woman that Jesus is the Messiah. And more conversations convince many ­others that Jesus is the promised Savior. Extraordinary!

Here’s how it starts. Jesus is bone tired. So he sits down by the well while his disciples go into town to buy food. He’s obviously hungry, but that will have to wait till the disciples return. Meanwhile, he’s thirsty. So when a woman comes to get water from the well, he asks her for a drink. That’s how their conversation begins.

It’s all so ordinary and human. Of course Jesus is tired. Of course he’s hungry. Of course he’s thirsty. He’s human, after all—like us in every way, with the same basic needs that have to be satisfied every day.

Jesus is not disguised as a human. He is fully human, just as he is fully God. And nothing about his humanity sets him above common human experiences—even ordinary ones like fatigue, hunger, and thirst. This will be true of him until the day he experiences the ulti­mate reality of being human: that we are vulnerable to suffering and death.