We Wait for the Blessed Hope

 

 

 

 

 

 

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men.

  It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions,

and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age,

  while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing

of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ,

  who gave himself for us to redeem us

from all wickedness and to purify for himself

  a people that are his very own,

eager to do what is good.

–Titus 2:11-14

Sin

 

 

 

It was a day like any other.

I stepped into the shower and pulled the outer and inner curtain to a close with my hand.

Just then, I happened to notice a spider sitting motionless on the inner curtain a few inches above my head.

Harmless? Maybe.

I decided to continue my shower and deal with my eight-legged visitor when I was finished.

Being curious about what type of spider had invaded the confines of my bathroom, I carefully got it down with some tissue and inspected it on the sink in better light.

Closer inspection brought serious concern.

Bulbous shape.

Those long, slender front legs with dark bands.

Brown widow?

I could’ve been wrong, but several factors pointed to my guess.

This was not to be taken lightly.

I placed him in a jar and eventually took him outside.

If it had been a black widow, the situation would have been even more serious.

Understanding the danger is the first step of protection.

Isn’t it like that with sin?

In the very first book of the Bible, sin shows up.

Not long after its first appearance with Adam and Eve, it is present as God speaks to their son, Cain:

Then the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast?  If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.”

So much of the time, on an ordinary day like any other, we go about our tasks as usual.

Then, we notice it.

Something sitting in the corner or stuck to the curtain.

Something so close and quiet we may not be alarmed.

If, on further inspection, we find that it is sin crouching nearby, we should beware.

Sin desires to have us.

To ruin our lives.

To keep us from God’s best.

We need to keep our eyes open–we never know what might be on the curtain.

 

 

 

 

 

Quick to Quarrel

 

 

 

 

 

 

Since I know very little about the true temperment of goats, I was unsure of the behavior I was watching.

It appeared that one small goat was interested in "butting heads" with another, slightly larger, one.

Along with my lack of knowledge of goat temperment is my lack of expertise in discerning a goat’s countenance, whether angry or calm. (Actually, goats I have seen seem to look like they are smiling in a Mona Lisa sort of way.)

Whether upset or just wanting to get face to face, the moment was picture worthy.

The larger goat did not seem to become defensive or aggitated, resulting in a mere display of what was, perhaps, goatly affection.

How would you expect the larger goat to have responded?

If the same behavior occurred with people, well, that could certainly have been different.

When someone is determined to "butt heads" with another, it can be difficult to respond without returning the aggression.

If a fellow shopper actually tried to bump you with a shopping cart, what would you do?

If a motorist in the lane beside you appeared angry at your driving skills, how would you respond?

Conflicts with strangers could happen at any time.

But what about people you know?

Does it get any easier?

Probably not.

Instead of reacting in anger, however, we can resolve to be like the white goat I was watching.

Each little shove of the face was met with, well….that goat-like expression and a lack of hostile behavior.

Proverbs 20:3 says, "It is to a man’s honor to avoid strife,
   but every fool is quick to quarrel."

Do I want to avoid strife or be quick to quarrel?

It’s up to me to decide…..

 

 

 

 

Do Not Judge

 

 

 

The house I live in was probably built about 20 years or so ago.

In the time we have lived here, we have replaced it’s roof (since a hurricane decided to kick up a few shingles here and there), built on an extra room and remodeled a bathroom that was aging, along with some other repairs.

Most recently, we have found ourselves with a water problem.

Today, I called two companies listed in the phone book to inquire about their payment policies.

Could a partial payment be made when the work was done or was all of the cost due at the time of service?

Both places informed me that all costs were due at the beginning.

Of course, this was their option, and I wasn’t upset with their choice.

One company, however, told me that all the money was due up front because it "wasn’t that much."

Hmmm.

Not that much.

Not that much to who?

The price I was quoted for a 35 minute visit would be approximately the wages of one full time work week for a great many of the people who live in my area.

40 hours of labor.

Not that much.

It just all depends on the vantage point of the individual.

What is a lot to some is a little to others.

Doesn’t this apply to how we view those around us?

"She shouldn’t still be upset; she should get over it."

"He’s been out of the hospital for a week! He can’t be hurting that badly…"

"How can she say she’s a Christian and then act like that?"

"Why doesn’t he just get a job?"

The problem is, we are not qualified to answer these questions for other people.

In fact, we are not really qualified to ask them, either.

The woman I taked to on the phone about our water problem had no way of knowing my financial capabilities, yet she supposed that the cost of the repairs needed at my home were reasonably minimal.

Without having any way of knowing the trials, hardships or suffering that someone may have endured, we sometimes make suppositions that are highly inaccurate and insensitive.

It all depends on the vantage point of the individual.

From what vantage point does Jesus view us?

He said, “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.  Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” —Luke 6:37-38

The next time we are confronted with the opportunity to make a personal judgment about someone else, perhaps it would help if we considered how Jesus would view the situation.

What seems to be a lot, may really be a little.

What seems to be a little, may really be a lot.

How do you want others to treat you?

 


 

 

 

Basing Your Confidence

 

 

 

King Hezikiah believed God.

King Hezikiah trusted God.

In my Bible reading tonight, a verse seemed to stand out from the rest.

King Hezekiah and his people were about to be faced with war on their country.

The attacking king sent officers to deliver a message to Hezekiah and his people.

In the message he asked this question, which is what stood out to me:

"On what are you basing your confidence, that you remain in Jerusalem under siege?"

(II Chronicles 32:10)

Later in the message, King Sennacherib, the opposing King, says this:

“Do you not know what I and my fathers have done to all the peoples of the other lands? Were the gods of those nations ever able to deliver their land from my hand?  Who of all the gods of these nations that my fathers destroyed has been able to save his people from me? How then can your god deliver you from my hand? Now do not let Hezekiah deceive you and mislead you like this. Do not believe him, for no god of any nation or kingdom has been able to deliver his people from my hand or the hand of my fathers. How much less will your god deliver you from my hand!”

II Chronicles 32:13-15

Of course, God was who Hezekiah was basing his confidence in.

Sennacherib’s arrogance was disturbing, to say the least.

What did Hezekiah do upon hearing such words?

He prayed.

So, how does the story end?

Verse 22 and 23 of the same chapter say this:

 So the LORD saved Hezekiah and the people of Jerusalem from the hand of Sennacherib king of Assyria and from the hand of all others. He took care of them on every side.  Many brought offerings to Jerusalem for the LORD and valuable gifts for Hezekiah king of Judah. From then on he was highly regarded by all the nations.

 

Believing God and trusting in Him, even in the face of adversity, is the only right choice.

When others ridicule you for putting your faith in God—-pray.

When you are facing an attack—pray.

When things look hopeless—pray.

We can both ask ourselves this question:

On what are we basing our confidence?

 

 

 

Before You Ask Him

 

 

It’s still Christmastime at our house.

We have decided to leave decorations in place at least another week.

On Christmas Day, my husband and I were talking about a concern that we have.

I felt that we should "set it aside" and enjoy the day, trusting that God would provide what was needed.

Today, we again discussed our concern.

My husband and I prayed together just before I left to run errands.

As I pulled out of my driveway, I was listening to a local radio station.

The announcer spoke briefly about a game that callers could participate in.

Next, I heard a familiar voice.

A well known Bible teacher often featured in one minute radio devotionals began to speak.

I was touched deeply by her words:

"Do you feel silly asking God for something you can do for yourself?" 1

She continued with encouragement to trust that God is our provider.

I was gripped with emotion as I realized that God was speaking these words on provision to me through her.

Hadn’t we just prayed about this only a couple of moments before?

With His complete sovereignty over all things, He placed this message within my hearing at just the perfect time—His time.

On the broadcast, the speaker referenced these verses:

And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words.  So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him. —Matthew 6:7-8

The concern my husband and I have is still a concern….but I know that God will provide.

 

1 Precepts from God’s Word with Kay Arthur

 

Wonderful Counselor

 

 

 

It’s almost midnight now.

Christmas Day, 2011, is drawing to a close.

Some ignored it.

Some did not even acknowledge it.

There are those in the world who have never heard of it.

Some celebrated it.

Some praised God for it.

Some kept its meaning in their hearts.

The lights in my kitchen are placed on a plant in a basket.

They blend with the lights on the bushes and tree outside.

For me, the lights bring back memories of Christmas times before.

And, of course, Jesus is the Light of the world.

He is the Light of my life.

When I am alone, He is still with me.

He is the Wonderful Counselor.

He is the Mighty God.

He is the Everlasting Father.

He is the Prince of Peace.

Do you know Him?

 

A Savior Has Been Born

 

 

The Christmas Eve service was beautiful.

Flowers adorned the altar area.

The music from the organ was majestic.

As I sat in the congregation, I thought of how we, as humans, try to create something of worth to offer to God.

The organ is an example.

Tall, commanding pipes that vibrate with grandios richness.

The music rendered from the instrument is fitting to offer up in praise.

Yet, also is the tiny voice of a child or the weak murmur of an aged soul.

However we praise God, when it is true and transparent, He accepts it.

At the front of the sanctuary, a large wooden cross is displayed for all to see.

As we celebrate Christmas and the birth of Jesus, we celebrate our salvation.

He came to die so we could live.

Our Savior.

Jesus.

 

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.  An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.  But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.  Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.  This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”—Luke 2:8-12

 

 

 

 

A Large Number of Disciples

 

 

 

 

With a small amount of research, I found that the word disciple is found many times in the Bible.

What exactly is a disciple?

A follower?

A student?

A teacher?

A guide?

I live a short distance from a fire station.

Whenever there is an emergency in the immediate area, a siren sounds and a crew of extremely capable individuals hurry to the scene, ready to help in any way they can.

They are trained and ready, having made a decision long ago to learn all that they could to be firefighters.

Every year, these firefighters welcome new candidates for inclusion in their number.

But what if they didn’t?

If no one new ever joined them, the existing firemen would grow old; eventually, they would die.

That means, of course, that inevitably, there would come a day when an emergency call would no longer be answered.

There would be no one to come racing to the scene.

No one to help the injured and dying.

No one to climb the tall burning building to rescue those that were trapped.

No one with experience.

No one who knew how to really help.

Of course, this scenario is unlikely.

Firefighters will continue training "disciples" as they teach them about rescuing those in need.

Well, then.

What about the church?

In many places, church sanctuaries are occupied with elderly believers.

This is wonderful, because their time on earth is drawing to a close and they are in the final season of serving God here.

There is a concern, however, that shouldn’t be overlooked.

Where are the younger people who need to be discipled?

Who will take the place of these white haired saints that have lived their lives serving God?

Will their seat in Sunday School remain empty?

Will there be no one to continue their specific ministry?

Will the church building eventually become empty as more and more of these believers go on to be with the Lord?

If so, who would be left to answer an "emergency" call?

"How can I be saved?"

"My life is hopeless. Is there anyone to help?"

"I am dying. Is God really real?"

In the book of Acts in the New Testament, the good news of Jesus Christ was preached and many people became "disciples."

If there is no discipling–no teaching–what will become of our faith?

When a church is alive with the young and old and in-between, the cycle of discipleship moves on.

Who will take our place when we are gone?

 

They preached the good news in that city and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch,  strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith.

 

–Acts 14:21-22a

 

 

 

There to Register

 

 

 

This evening, I read part of an article about the birth of Jesus.

The article spoke about how we are not sure by what means Mary came to Bethlehem.

Was she riding on a donkey?

Although we may not know for sure, it was, I suppose, possible.

Just yesterday, I visited some property that was home to a donkey.

At least twice, a loud "hee-haw" was heard quite clearly.

If Mary did ride a donkey, I wonder if that special animal knew who he was carrying?

Imagine—a small, fragile donkey born one day with the destiny to carry Mary and the unborn Jesus to Bethlehem.

Other animals surely were attending the birth.

What did they think?

Did they each speak out with the language of their own kind?

I wonder.

 

What do you think?

 

 

 

But Joy Comes

 

 

 

I have had some special days in my lifetime.

Today will be added to that number and will be recorded forever in my mind as one that held a great blessing from God.

I enjoyed a wonderful time on an outing.

The weather was perfect and the sunset through the trees was stunningly beautiful with pastel orange and lavender.

I was privilged to give and to receive some early Christmas gifts.

I enjoyed a great dinner.

All of these things are very special, but what is so greatly meaningful about today is that I was able to ask someone to forgive me.

Having asked them for forgiveness in the past, I had never felt that I was truly forgiven by them.

Asking yet again, I felt that this time it was really accepted.

Not only that, the person whom I sought forgiveness from asked me to forgive them.

Did I cry?

Yes.

This has been something unresolved for years.

God has heard my prayers.

He knows my heart in this matter.

I think He was rejoicing with me during the entire conversation.

Yes, it’s been a great day.

Today was a day when I could begin again, forgiven.

I now feel accepted and more whole than I have in a very long time.

A great blessing from God…..

 

Sing praises to the Lord, you who belong to him;
       praise his holy name.
  His anger lasts only a moment,
       but his kindness lasts for a lifetime.
    Crying may last for a night,
       but joy comes in the morning.

–Psalm 30:4,5

 

And They Will Become One

 

 

 

Our oldest son is getting married soon.

He is the first of our children to do so.

Recently, I attended a wedding shower given in honor of his fiance’.

She has selected a color scheme for the wedding ceremony of orange and gray.

At the shower, a table with refreshments donned orange flowers in a gray metal vase.

Another chapter in my own life is beginning as I become the mother in law.

A new chapter is beginning for my son as he becomes a husband.

A new chapter is beginning for my soon to be daughter in law as she becomes a wife.

God is the creator of new beginnings.

Our lives are ever moving and changing.

Growing and becoming.

Through a kaleidoscope of purpose and meaning, our family will soon see the next design of life that God has for us as all the facets of our family will subtly change on the wedding day.

God is good.

For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.—Genesis 2:24

 


 

In a Manger

 

 

 

 

What was Mary thinking the night she gave birth to Jesus?

A new wife.

A new mother.

So many changes.

She knew God was real.

She knew that God had a plan for her life, for Joseph’s life and for this new baby, Jesus.

Did she lay awake at night with wide eyes, wondering what everything meant?

Was she fearful that she wouldn’t be able to do all that God expected of her?

Or was she peaceful, trusting that God was in control?

We may not know what she felt that night, but we know what she had said to the angel who visited her months before–

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.”–from Luke 1:38

Just as God planned, everything came to pass as it was intended to.

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.)  And everyone went to his own town to register.

  So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David.  He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.  While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born,  and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.—Luke 2:1-7

God was faithful to do what He said He would do then and He is faithful to do what He says He will do now.

We can trust Him.

Right now.

Today.

 

You Came to Visit Me

 

 

 

 

It was a good night for Christmas caroling.

I went with a group to sing Christmas songs on the lawns and in the living rooms of some elderly people tonight.

Each person we went to see graciously welcomed us.

The first person we sang to had snow white hair and such a sweet attitude.

After we sang about three songs, it was time to go.

The woman’s response?

"But you just got here!!"

We stopped at one house to sing, just because it was decorated so nicely.

Ending the caroling time in a very positive way, we stopped at a large hospital and sang to the emergeny department—those waiting to be seen as well as the employees.

I have no idea what impact we may have had on each individual who heard us sing this evening.

God has given us voices, and what better thing to do than to use them to remind others about Jesus at this time of year.

I’m glad I was a part of the giving tonight.

The gift of time.

The gift of compassion.

The gift of song.

The gift of caring and conern.

When we love others, it is like loving Jesus.

Why not consider doing something this season to show the love of God to another?

You won’t regret it.

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,  I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. —Matthew 25:35,36

 

 

And the Clouds Let Drop the Dew

 

 

 

I was awake, but still lying in bed.

Because today was a day off from work, I could enjoy a few moments of quiet without the startling sound of my alarm clock.

My alarm clock had not been set last night, but I had failed to communicate any plans of sleeping late to my dog.

The morning rays of sun had rousted her from the dog house and apparently invigorated her to the point of pouncing on my bedroom window glass with paws and toenails accompanying her whining.

It was time to get up.

What awaited me was a beautiful surprise.

The kind of gift that only God can give.

It was foggy out, with a generous helping of dew blanketing the immediate world around me.

I couldn’t wait to get outside.

Clad in dress shoes, gym shorts, a pajama top and a raincoat, (I was in a great hurry to get outside…) I emerged into the mist with joy in my heart and a camera in my hand.

Walking quickly to the farm beside our house, a black cow dimly visible within the fog was my first subject.

Drawing closer to the barbed wire fence surrounding the property, I was thrilled to find spider webs—-scores of them—everywhere.

Delicately woven on practically everything in sight, they had taken on the morning dew with an elegance only God could orchestrate.

What was not knitted together with lacey webs was covered with millions of tiny drops of water.

They reflected their surroundings like miniature glass orbs, mirroring every image with convex detail.

Like fine jewelry, they linked together in an orderly display of beauty.

And I got to see it.

I truly received a gift this morning.

The kind that only God can give.

 

By wisdom the LORD laid the earth’s foundations,
   by understanding he set the heavens in place;
 by his knowledge the deeps were divided,
   and the clouds let drop the dew.

—Proverbs 3:19-20

 

 

 

Every Weight That Slows Us Down

 

 

He didn’t even seem to care that I was walking right toward him.

The Anhinga bird just sat there on the bridge railing.

These birds don’t have the ability to waterproof their feathers like ducks can.

Their feathers can become so weighed down with water that it truly becomes a hindrance to them.

It becomes very hard to fly at this point.

They must air out their feathers to dry, getting rid of the water.

As Christians, what weighs us down?

What sin trips us up?

In speaking about people of great faith who had died, the writer of Hebrews says,

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.  We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. –Hebrews 12:1-2

If an Anhinga has trouble flying if his wings are wet, it gets rid of the water.

If we are having trouble doing that which God wants us to do because of something in the way, shouldn’t we get rid of it so we won’t be slowed down?

There’s one question I have for myself tonight—

Do I have "wet wings?"

 

 

Forgive My Hidden Faults

 

 

 

She melted my heart.

Our son’s dog is quite rambunctious.

Into this, into that.

She’s short on manners, but she has an endearing heart.

Besides this playful hound dog, we have another dog and a cat.

The following details involve the cat, indirectly…

Our dog has been known to tamper with the cat’s litter box.

At times, she has even taken her paw and dumped it over into the floor.

Those are not moments fondly remembered.

Just the other day, I decided that my stern, "no" was not enough to warn her against her visits to the box.

Looking to see what I had at hand, I picked up a drinking glass that had a spoon in it.

I began to say, "NO!" when she got near the box and I tapped the spoon on the inside of the glass to make an unfamiliar ringing sound.

I thought this might make her think twice before returning to the interesting pan of tiny rocks.

Sitting back down at my desk, here she came.

Coming right up to me, she licked me in the face and then on my arm, with a tenderness that I immediately picked up.

She was sorry.

She wanted our relationship to start over.

It hurt too much to stay away.

She had to come.

Childlike.

Sorrowful.

She came.

Of course, I accepted her mute apology.

I love her.

Just today, I was thinking of a situation where I needed to forgive another person.

I realized that I was still upset over something that had happened long ago.

The writer of Psalm 19 seems to be saying that it is difficult to discern our own errors, as we have hidden faults.

He asks God for forgiveness of these very same things.

If a record could be kept of every wrong thing that I did in a day, it would be full.

Wrong attitude?

Check.

Angry and unforgiving?

Check.

Unappreciative?

Check again.

It could be a long, long list.

The wonderful thing is, my list truly is long—–but God forgives me and allows me to go on anyway.

Messing up.

Repenting.

Starting over.

Although God knows exactly what I’ve done, He is not keeping a record of condemnation of it all.

He does want us to come to Him and ask for forgiveness and guidance.

It hurts us too much to stay away.

We have to come.

Childlike.

Sorrowful.

Of course, He accepts our repentance.

He loves us.

Jesus died to pay for all that we do that’s wrong.

Who can discern his errors?
   Forgive my hidden faults.
 Keep your servant also from willful sins;
   may they not rule over me.
Then will I be blameless,
   innocent of great transgression.–Psalm 19:12-13

 

 

 

Renew a Steadfast Spirit

 

 

It was terribly annoying.

Every time I tried to use a hot air comb on my hair, it would overheat.

If I turned it off for just a second, it wouldn’t start again until it had cooled off.

This often took longer than I had hoped for.

It was probably time to get rid of it and buy a new one.

After all, it had been around awhile and it had served me well as long as it could.

One day, I decided to look at it closely.

In the area where the electric cord entered the dryer, there were vents for air.

Looking down inside, I could see what looked like a tiny gray "blanket."

With it unplugged, I tried using a couple of pin-like things to try to dislodge what I was seeing.

There was a covering of thick lint that had collected under the vents.

After working at it for awhile, I removed most of the obstruction.

Would it help?

It was time to give it a try….

Hooray!!!

Hot air came and kept coming.

Overheating?

A thing of the past.

Good as new!

Tip top shape!

In the game again!

This morning, as I was getting ready for work, I thought about what had occured with my hot air comb.

I also thought about what happens to us, also.

How many times have we felt like giving up?

After all, we’ve been around awhile, working hard at all we do.

We’ve served God as long as we could, right?

It might just be time for someone new to step in, since we seem to have lost the vitality that was once there.

Overheated and exhausted, it’s seems like the best thing.

But wait……

Have we checked with God about it?

Have we looked a little closer at the situation?

Have we been taking in the dust and debris from the work we’ve been doing?

Has it collected into a blanket of weariness that keeps us from being renewed by the fresh air that God can give us?

You know that dirt I’m talking about.

The particles of criticism or the residue of broken relationships.

Sorrow and doubt.

The dusty blanket of our own sin.

If we don’t let God clean it away, it sticks to us, causing an eventual fatigue that will render us unproductive and worn.

Wouldn’t it be nice to be rid of it all?

Don’t you want to be good as new, in tip top shape, back in the game again?

Ask God to clean away the lint.

Brush away the dirt and dust.

There’s no sense overheating when we don’t have to.

He can renew our lives—spiritually, physically and emotionally.

It’s time, isn’t it?

 

Create in me a pure heart, O God,
   and renew a steadfast spirit within me.—Psalm 51:10

 

The Shepherd of My People

 

 

It was getting toward the end of a 12 hour work day for me.

I don’t have many of those, but today was the exception.

As part of my assignment, I had to be away from where I usuallly work.

I was arriving early for a scheduled event in an area where a city Christmas celebration was to be held tonight.

When I pulled my car into the parking lot, I noticed a wooden pen structure that had been constructed out on the grass near the lot.

I decided that I would investigate.

There was no one around.

That is, no one except…..the sheep.

The adult sheep and the …….

very small brown lamb.

This was an unexpected delight for me.

I began to talk to the animals. (I don’t think anyone was watching!)

I squatted down to get to their level as I spoke to them about God.

Knowing that the celebration was for later in the evening, this was probably going to be some sort of nativity  scene.

My attention kept going back to the lamb.

Too shy to walk up to my beckoning hand, he simply looked at me, occasionally licking his soft, tan lips with his tongue.

He had been standing.

After awhile, he decided to just lie down on the grass.

I don’t see lambs often.

When I do, it seems that I think of Jesus and I think of people.

Jesus is the Lamb of God.

We are described as sheep who need to know Jesus as our Shepherd.

The lamb before me was so innocent looking.

Jesus was totally innocent and free from sin, yet He died to pay the penalty for ours.

The adult sheep that I saw stood calmly in the pen.

Although I don’t know who, I’m sure they had someone who was caring for them on a continual basis.

A shepherd, if you will.

Seeing the animals today was an unexpected reminder of who we are and who Christ is.

Thank You, God, for allowing me to see the animals today.

 

“When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written: “‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.’””

Matthew 2:4-6

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alive With Christ

 

 

 

 

I had been invited to a farm for an event last week.

Not having been there before, I drove along rural roads with a map beside me in the car.

The areas I passed were often very scenic.

But then…..THEN, I came to my destination.

The acreage was captivating.

A pond reflected the sunset and clouds.

The beauty of the moment was worth the drive.

What I had seen before was nothing compared to this.

The scene was alive and vibrant, even as darkness was close by.

When Jesus came, He gave us the opportunity to leave the darkness of sin and death and to become alive and vibrant, forgiven and free.

Our lives, once we accept Him, are filled with His light and His love.

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy,  made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.  And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,  in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.

—Ephesians 2:4-7

 

 

 

 

Where Is The One?

 

Last night, I went to a local park.

The city was hosting an event there for children in the community.

Christmas lights were dazzling and people of all ages were walking around.

Children were excited to see the decorations.

Families were snapping pictures here and there.

A horse drawn carriage rode by.

Shops were open as the darkness of the night was illuminated by millions of tiny lights.

Through all of the celebration, there was something missing.

Oh, I understand the reasoning behind public places keeping Christmas decorations "secular."

Still, the absence of what the season is all about is still apparent to me and surely to others, as well.

Magic snowmen?

Reindeer?

Yes.

Nativity scene?

No.

Elves?

Candy canes?

Yes.

Angels?

No.

And music…..

White Christmas?

Winter Wonderland?

Yes.

O Little Town of Bethlehem?

Silent Night?

No.

While I enjoy snowmen and playing White Christmas on the piano, I realize that this celebration is not really about the joys of winter fun.

It’s about Jesus and how He came to us.

I don’t want to be distracted by lesser things that have no eternal significance.

His coming was all a part of the plan.

The plan to redeem those who would believe.

This Christmas, I want to remember what is truly important.

In the Book of Matthew in the New Testament, Magi from the east came in search of baby Jesus.

They asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?"

As we look around us and see decorations everywhere we go, should we ask ourselves, "Where is Jesus?"

I wonder.

Have you noticed something missing this year?

 

 

 

Richly Provides

 

 

 

There are many things that I have prayed about.

Sometimes it’s people.

Sometimes it’s finances.

Sometimes it’s illness.

I was listening to a podcast just the other day.

The speaker was encouraging his listeners not to give up.

He spoke of how suddenly God could work.

He felt that the very thing that we have hoped for could be just about to happen.

We don’t know.

It’s God’s perfect timing.

My husband and I had hoped for a change in his employment for quite some time now.

Recently, he had applied for a new job.

For my husband to have had that position would’ve been good.

Here’s the "don’t give up" part, coupled with the "suddenly, God can work" part:

Without warning, my husband got a phone call from the office where he had interviewed.

It wasn’t about that job—it was about another job that was better than the one he had hoped to get.

Not only that, they were offering him that new job right then.

He said "yes."

Suddenly.

Moments, days—even weeks before, we didn’t know that the very thing we had hoped for was just about to happen.

God’s timing.

The right place.

The right job.

He richly provides us with everything.

I am grateful to Him for this new employment.

He is suddenly—-and always—–God.

 

Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.

—I Timothy 6:17

 

 

 

Those Who Know

 

 

 

The LORD reigns forever;


   he has established his throne for judgment.


 He will judge the world in righteousness;


   he will govern the peoples with justice. 

The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed,


   a stronghold in times of trouble.


Those who know your name will trust in you,


   for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you.

—Psalm 9:7-10

 

 

And the LORD Listened

 

In the last couple of days, I have been reading from the book of Malachi in the Old Testament.

A particular statement got my attention.

For me, it seems to be a statement filled with great affirmation.

Chapter 3, verse 16 reads,

Then those who feared the LORD talked with each other, and the LORD listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the LORD and honored his name.

This is taken from a chapter in which God is telling the people how they have displeased Him with several kinds of transgressions.

There were those among the people who feared the LORD.

When they talked, God listened.

God heard what they said.

This is the affirmation that stood out so prominently to me.

Not only did He hear what they said, but He would also remember what they said.

When we pray, we do not always hear from God immediately.

We shouldn’t be discouraged.

When we are sharing our concerns with others as we trust God with our circumstances, He is listening.

He is hearing.

He will remember…..

 

 

Serve Him

 

 

 

I have had a similar experience about three times now.

God is showing me that He cares about our deepest heartfelt feelings and of those that we love.

A few years ago, I had just purchased a new camera.

Having taken it to church one Sunday, I had it with me when the service ended. I was standing outside the building, when our youngest son’s Sunday School teacher and his wife walked past me. Their daughter and her husband had recently had a baby.

On the spur of the moment— which I now know was God’s leading— I asked if I could take some pictures of the grandparents and the new baby.

They photos turned out well.

It seems that not long after, the proud grandfather died of a heart attack at work.

His wife, his daughter and his grandbaby will cherish those photos for the rest of their lives.

God knew that the remembrance of this dear Christian man was important.

He allowed me and my camera to be a part of the plan.

A few months ago, a friend asked me to photograph a family reunion for her. Among those attending was her elderly mother. I was privileged to make several photos of her mother. Soon after, this kind, elderly mother died.

Her entire family will cherish those photos for the rest of their lives, as well.

God knew that the remembrance of this sweet woman was important.

Once again, He allowed me and my camera to be a part of His plan.

About ten days ago, I was once again photographing a friend’s mother in her home with the granddaughters.

How lovely they all looked!

I was shocked to find out that just a couple of days later, the grandmother was in the hospital and will likely live now in a care facility.

Isn’t God faithful?

Isn’t He loving beyond words?

He knew that, in years to come, photos of this sweet grandmother in her own home would be important.

Her entire family will cherish these pictures for the rest of their lives, too.

For a third time, He allowed me and my camera to be a part of His plan.

I recently heard a Christian leader speak about how we all have something to give in service for God. Each of us has something that God can use.

I am thanking and praising God that He has given me the desire to be a photographer, provided me with equipment and given me opportunities to step into His plan for the lives of others, sometimes even when I am not aware.

What do you have to offer to God?

Do you like to cook?

Maybe He will have you bless others with meals.

Are you a carpenter?

Maybe He will have you build structures to show others His great love.

Are you a singer?

A housewife?

A businessman?

A lawyer?

A fisherman?

A firefigher?

The list is endless, but so are the opportunities God may bring you to serve others in His Name.

Really consider this one thing—-

What has God given to you that you could give back to Him by using it for His glory?

 

 

 

 

You Will Protect Me

 

 

This morning as I was driving to work, I could have been in an accident.

I looked into my rear view mirror and noticed a motorcyclist behind me.

He decided to pass me.

The problem was, there was oncoming traffic and there wasn’t much of a window of safety for him to return to the appropriate lane.

As he came around me, I realized he could easily hit the oncoming car head on.

I cried, "Lord God!" twice and the motorcycle passed between my car and the oncoming car with about 2 seconds to spare.

God protected everyone involved in that man’s decision this morning.

He watches over us continually.

I am both thankful and grateful for safety.

Whether we are on a two-lane highway like I was this morning or a sprawling interstate road, He knows where we are and He is able to deliver us from danger.

You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance. Selah

—Psalm 32:7

 

 

Never Walk in Darkness

 

 

 When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

  The Pharisees challenged him, “Here you are, appearing as your own witness; your testimony is not valid.”

  Jesus answered, “Even if I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is valid, for I know where I came from and where I am going. But you have no idea where I come from or where I am going. You judge by human standards; I pass judgment on no one.  But if I do judge, my decisions are right, because I am not alone. I stand with the Father, who sent me.  In your own Law it is written that the testimony of two men is valid.  I am one who testifies for myself; my other witness is the Father, who sent me.” –John 8:12-18

 

Your Salvation

 

 

 

 

From long ago in my childhood, I remember my mother saying something like this—

"It just doesn’t seem like Christmas this year."

Funny, but I can’t recall any childhood memories of my mother stating, "It certainly feels like Christmas THIS year!"

I wonder why.

What was the feeling she was expecting?

Had it ever been a reality?

I have a theory.

Each year, we grow and change.

Hopefully, the changes are good ones.

As we mature, we look back on previous times with hindsight.

The very feelings and emotions that we had previously are evaluated and remembered with the lens of our current insight and understanding.

I think this creates a contrast between what used to seem one way, with how things are remembered at present.

Imagine saying, "This birthday just doesn’t feel like my birthday last year."

Well, no, it wouldn’t.

Being another year older, having gained twelve months’s worth of new experience and wisdom, this birthday would be different and unto itself.

As Christmas has been approaching, I have found myself feeling a different way.

Although I am not saying that it doesn’t feel like Christmas, I am realizing that I am thinking about it all with a very different attitude.

It seems that I am becoming more aware of what Christmas really is.

Worldly celebrations from a secular view have dimmed for me.

The thoughts of Jesus coming to Earth and all that transpired are coming more focused and clear.

As the meaning of Christmas grows brighter, things that I once thought of as important at this time of year have lessened in their significance.

This year, I am quieter and calmer entering into the weeks before Christmas day.

Hustle, bustle has been replaced with more of a peaceful reflection.

When Jesus was born, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord and to offer a sacrifice.

A man named Simeon, who was very righteous, was there:

It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required,  Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:

  “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
   you now dismiss your servant in peace.
 For my eyes have seen your salvation,
  which you have prepared in the sight of all people,
 a light for revelation to the Gentiles
   and for glory to your people Israel.”–Luke 2:26-32


Simeon was able to see Jesus as a baby and know that He was the Savior of the world.

As Christians, we know salvation personally as He has forgiven us and become the light for our revelation of God.

Christmas is all about Jesus.

Does it seem like Christmas this year to you?

 

 

Flocks At Night

 

 

I was listening to Christmas music on the radio.

Suddenly, a line from a song that I suppose I have heard all my life at this time of year struck a chord in my heart.

The song was "O Holy Night."

Here are the first few lines of the lyrics:

"O holy night, the stars are brightly shining.

It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth.

Long lay the world in sin and error pining,

’til He appeared and the soul felt its worth."

 

The words that reached out to me so strongly were, "and the soul felt its worth."

I began to think about this statement.

When Jesus appeared, salvation had come to mankind.

Our souls were lost, but God counted us worth redeeming.

This Christmas, perhaps we should consider our worth.

Our worth to God.

When we are tempted to feel that we are worthless at times, not good for anything, this truth should pull us away from the deception–God cared enough about us to send Jesus to die for us.

 

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.  An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.  But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.  Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.  This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

  Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

  “Glory to God in the highest,
   and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”—Luke 2:8-14