Indistinctly, As in a Mirror

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There are so many things that I don’t understand.

Not things like chemistry or quantum physics; even though I don’t have much knowledge of either of those, given the time and opportunity, I could gain an understanding.

I’m talking about things which cannot be answered by human reasoning.

Things like understanding why a friend’s baby died suddenly in her crib.

Why some people make poor decisions and ruin their lives—and others don’t.

Even things like what Heaven will be like or how is it that people fall in love?

For now, those questions will have to wait to be perfectly understood.

Someday, though, I will know fully.

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For now we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I will know fully, as I am fully known.

—1 Corinthians 13:12

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Before You Hear About It

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I had never heard it put like that before.

Certainly listening carefully to others is a noble action.

Today, while looking at a publication, I read that if the letters of listen are rearranged, they can spell silent.

I was shocked.

Such a simple truth hidden in a tiny cluster of letters.

To listen—really listen—we must be silent.

It even goes farther than that, actually.

We need to listen all the way through before responding to what is being said.

If we don’t, we can end up looking pretty ridiculous.

Proverbs 18:13 tells us,

“To respond to a matter before you hear about it
    shows foolishness and brings shame.”

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respond

According to the Blessing

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There is a passage of scripture in the Old Testament that tells about the Festival of Tabernacles. Within that passage are these two verses:

Three times a year all your men must appear before the Lord your God at the place he will choose: at the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the Festival of Weeks and the Festival of Tabernacles. No one should appear before the Lord empty-handed:  Each of you must bring a gift in proportion to the way the Lord your God has blessed you.

—Deuteronomy 16:16-17

The last part of verse seventeen speaks to me apart from this context.

The gifts that God has given us–our spiritual gifts and our talents—are to be given back as gifts or offerings to God.

If our spiritual gifts include teaching, then when we teach we are offering it to God.

If our talents include construction skills, when we are building a structure, our actions can be an offering, as well.

On Christmas morning, I drove to a local hospital by myself.

I had decided that since one of my talents is piano playing, I could play Christmas songs on a piano located in the lobby.

In some way, I hoped that the music would bring both comfort and cheer to those who were there.

As I played, many people came walking by.

Nurses and other hospital staff.

People with young children.

Senior citizens.

Young adults.

Family groups.

Everyone had a reason for being at the hospital on Christmas.

Several people made positive comments and smiled.

A young man found a seat in a waiting area, looking sober and thoughtful.

Was he worried?

Who did he love that was ill?

I played on.

Songs about the birth of Jesus.

Songs about Christmastime.

Because God had given me the blessing and ability to learn the skill of piano playing, I had piano playing to give to others on Christmas Day.

As I left to go home to my own family, I walked past a life-sized nativity scene outside the hospital.

The wise men brought gifts to Jesus long ago.

On this Christmas, my offering was one of music, given back to Him.

What gifts has God given to you?

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Delight in Honoring

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It was a gesture of friendship.

Some friends came over for dinner a few nights ago.

When they arrived, I was presented with a gracefully arranged bouquet of flowers.

I quickly found a vase, filled it with water and placed the blooms on the table.

The flowers are still blooming, as I now have them in my kitchen near a window.

Whenever someone does something nice for me, it shows a certain amount of honor.

Knowing this, their kindness is a lesson about how I should be treating others.

Romans 12:10 reads:

Love each other with brotherly affection and take delight in honoring each other.

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No Darkness at All

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Bicycling in the park was a good idea today.

The weather was pleasant, with temperatures probably near 80 degrees.

A bright blue sky with puffy, cotton ball clouds filtered the sunlight on the road.

The 7,000 acre park is a beautiful place to go biking—in the daytime.

If I were walking or riding a bike there at night, the darkness would consume even the nearest path in front of me.

I actually think I would be afraid.

The Bible tells us that God is light.

There is no darkness in Him.

If I am in a right relationship with Him, I will have light—His light—to guide me.

Without His light, darkness would consume my path.

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This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.  If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.  But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.  If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

—1 John 1:5-10

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Everyone Who Looks

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You can’t wait on anybody else.

If you are hoping that friends or family or coworkers or people in your neighborhood or even people in your church will have a change in heart and choose to follow God and then afterwards YOU will, it just isn’t the best idea.

There is only one clock of life ticking with you.

Everyone else has their own.

It’s ticking with them.

Opportunities that God is placing in front of you will come and go.

You can’t wait for someone to join you in making the decision to obey His voice or not.

It starts with committing your life to Him.

You’d better not wait until your mom, your dad, your grandparents, your spouse or your kids decide to believe in Jesus.

What if they never do?

Then, would that mean that you never do?

And, that being the case, where does that leave you?

In eternity without God.

Your “everybody else in life” may not want to commit to follow Him, go to church, study the Bible or pray.

If that happens, don’t let it stop you from listening to the call of God.

What if someone you know is just waiting for YOU to make that decision?

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For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.

—John 6:40

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A Sign

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I’m not sure how many years I’ve kept it.

The Christmas card that spells out J E S U S is sitting on display in the front room of my home.

I haven’t kept every card that has been sent to me at past Christmas times, but this one was special.

Today is all about Jesus.

Jesus coming.

Jesus saving.

Jesus loving.

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And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.

—Luke 2:12

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A Savior

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In the park, the nativity scene was aglow, silently reminding those who visited that the birth of Jesus is what Christmas is all about.

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For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

—Luke 2:11

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To Seek and to Save

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Jesus knew why He came to the earth.

He knew what He was going to do.

He knew that He would die and pay the penalty deserved by all people, offering them life forever.

He knew that some would not accept His payment and choose not to follow Him.

He knew that some would.

He knew that His great love would fill the hearts of those who allowed Him in.

He knew that some hearts would shut Him out.

He knew.

Which are you?

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 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost. —Luke 19:10

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Love Does Not Give Up

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Thinking of today—

Did I give up?

Was I kind?

Was I jealous?

Did I put myself up as being important?

Was I prideful?

Did I do the wrong thing?

Did I think of myself?

Did I get angry?

Did I remember how I suffered because of someone hurting me?

1 Corinthians 13:4-5 reads:

Love does not give up. Love is kind. Love is not jealous. Love does not put itself up as being important. Love has no pride.  Love does not do the wrong thing. Love never thinks of itself. Love does not get angry. Love does not remember the suffering that comes from being hurt by someone.

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Exactly how loving was I today?

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In All Circumstances

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It’s raining now, and I am quietly sleepy.

A few days ago, I started getting sick.

The sinus kind of sick with watery eyes and sneezing.

The kind of sick that keeps you at home, away from people.

My husband left for church this morning, leaving me with our tuxedo cat and basset hound.

Reflective, I considered my life and the lives of those that I love.

The Christmas tree in the room stood tall with decorations interspersed between its branches.

I didn’t want to be sick, but since I was, I found comfort in spending time alone, thinking, remembering and sometimes, in prayer.

1 Thesalonians 5:16-18

Rejoice always,  pray continually,  give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

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No Word From God

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Could God ever fail?

Could His words fail?

Can we believe what He says, no matter what?

Has He ever failed you?

Can you think of anyone that He has failed?

God is faithful, always.

God can never fail.

What He says will happen, will.

We can believe Him, no matter what.

The angel, Gabriel, visited Mary and greeted her, causing her to become troubled—

But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God.  You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David,  and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.  Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month.  For no word from God will ever fail.”

—Luke 1:30-37

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The Light

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It was magnificent.

In the late afternoon hours at work, I looked up to see that the sky was almost completely filled with clouds that looked like patches of snow.

The sun was shining brightly through them, just above the trees.

Its light illumined the white clouds and the blue sky, forming a scene that was difficult to look away from.

Captivating.

Inviting.

Almost surreal.

The sun lights the sky, but it is Jesus who lights our hearts with His love.

Do you know Him today?

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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.”

—John 8:12

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Because He Will Save

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Parties.

Dinners.

Theater productions.

Cards.

Gifts.

Choirs singing.

Cookies.

Candles burning.

There’s a reason for it all—–

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This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit.  Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.  She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet:  “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).

—Matthew 1:18-23

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Always Give Thanks

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It was an unexpected blessing.

My husband and I had just left a Christmas dinner party at a local restaurant. We had both come right after work, so we were in two separate vehicles. We decided that since my car was parked closest, he would get into my car and I would drive him to his car which was parked some distance away.

He had chosen to leave his car at a lot by a lakeside park.

The sun had already gone down, leaving pink and gray swirls behind to wave goodbye just before darkness would settle in.

Seven ducks (I counted them!) were swimming in the lake which had been transformed into a glowing surface of color. Some fishermen were nearby, taking in their surroundings, just as I was.

Enthralled by such beauty, I looked up into the sky and took a deep breath, taking in the moment as a blessing from God.

The sky, the sweet, cool air, the ducks, the shimmering water—all played a part in a magnificently delicate scene before me.

I was thankful for the unplanned opportunity to see God’s creation.

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The LORD Sets Prisoners Free

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What is holding you captive today?

Are you in a prison surrounded by the guilt of poor choices in the past?

Does a tall fence of hopelessness seem to frame the future?

Does regret cause you to stay within the confines of low self esteem?

Whatever is keeping you in your spiritual prison can be banished by God.

He sets prisoners free.

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Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
    whose hope is in the Lord their God.

 He is the Maker of heaven and earth,
    the sea, and everything in them—
    he remains faithful forever.
 He upholds the cause of the oppressed
    and gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets prisoners free,
     the Lord gives sight to the blind,
the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down,
    the Lord loves the righteous.

—Psalm 146:5-8

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A Friend Loves

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Today is my birthday.

I have been reading messages from my friends wishing me a happy day.

Many people at work said, “Happy birthday!” to me, as well.

At some point tonight, reading the messages on my phone and on my computer, I began thinking about the people who were contacting me.

One friend I had lived next door to when my second child was born.

Another couple of friends I had met when I was in the 4th grade.

Friends from high school and college were wishing me a great day along with people I had met in just the last few years.

I’m not quite sure how to express it, but having all these friends from different points in my life converge on the same day to communicate with me was, well…..stirring up some introspection.

It’s normal to look back over your life and think of good times, as well as bad times.

That usually happens just one chapter of life at a time, though, like randomly remembering your last year of college or the first year at a certain job.

Today, it was like reading the opening lines to practically every chapter in the book of my life as I saw friends’ names pop up on text messages and social media.

I am quietly considering what a great blessing my friendships have been over all these years.

Love cannot be purchased, but the bonds between those we have shared seasons of our lives with are priceless.

God has made me rich.

Rich with friends.

Rich with love.

Rich with life eternal in Him.

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A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.

—Proverbs 17:17

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Prince of Peace

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Who is your Wonderful Counselor?

Who is your Mighty God?

Who is your Everlasting Father?

Who is your Prince of Peace?

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For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

—Isaiah 9:6

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wonderful counselor

Of Great Joy

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The stars were bright tonight, without the  moon to compete with, as yet.

It was cold, too, so a coat was in order.

The Bible study group that I belong to was having a dinner party at the home of one of the members.

The atmosphere was warm with love inside.

Friends greeted each other with smiles and laughter.

There were candles on some of the tables inside metal jars.

Open lettering exposed the light and flame.

“Joy” was glowing through one of them.

I’m sure that every single person at the dinner had something of concern going on in their lives.

Jobs.

Finances.

Health.

Relationships.

Anything, really.

No one is exempt from difficulties in life.

Yet, there was something else present around the tables and chairs.

Joy.

Deep within the hearts of each guest lived a knowledge of God’s love for them.

A place of settled peace with Him.

A space occupied by knowing Jesus.

Whatever else happens in life, those things cannot be changed.

Joy emerges from such a knowledge.

In the book of Luke, these words bring us joy:

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

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

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

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

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

—Luke 2: 8-14

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joy final

You Will Be Free Indeed

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It was a beautiful time of day to stand on the dock at the lake.

Flowers were in bloom along the water’s edge.

The birds flew quickly past in front of me.

They were free.

They could go anywhere their wings might take them.

Free to soar.

Free to glide almost effortlessly in the space God created for them.

We can be spiritually free.

God has created that reality for us.

Are you living in that freedom today?

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To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.  Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?”  Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever.  So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

—John 8:31-36

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Every Plant Yielding Seed

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Sometimes I visit a town about an hour’s drive from our home on Saturdays.

The vintage shops are interesting, as well as the architecture from days gone by.

There is also a nice farmer’s market that sets up in the central area of town.

Many vendors bring their goods to sell and customers abound.

There are choices to be made.

Buy apples and tomatoes?

Buy a pound of chocolate candy from the confectioner’s shop?

Buy pears and avocados or a French roll with cream cheese and sugar icing?

Eating candy and rolls occasionally is okay, but we all need a diet of foods that are good for us.

My preferred dinner out is at a restaurant that serves many salads.

In the Old Testament we find this passage:

And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food.

—Genesis 1:29

There are a lot of nice things to eat that are good for us.

God put them here to nourish us.

So, what does your diet look like?

I know I could do better……

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From Start to Finish

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Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish! We don’t play the major role. If we did, we’d probably go around bragging that we’d done the whole thing! No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving. He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing.

—Ephesians 2:7-10 The Message

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Before They Call

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It was a really big deal.

I had recently received a package at work with an order I had sent out some time before.

There were several items in the package that were quite important.

Last week, I was working at a different location and I had taken the box and its contents with me.

Today, I was once again going to work at a different location.

I needed two of the items in the box.

Where was it?

I looked all over my area, to no avail.

I considered that I might have left the box in my car from last week.

Checking there, still I could not find it.

It didn’t make any sense.

Walking alone into the area nearest my office, I prayed.

My prayer was something like this:

“Lord, if that box is in this room somewhere, would you please let me find it?”

Almost immediately, in perhaps only a second or two, my eyes fell on the box.

It had been placed in a tall chair and I just had not seen it before.

Problem solved.

Answered prayer.

A reminder that God is with me through every moment of the day.

He is ready to help me, even if it is only to find a box.

In the Old Testament book of Isaiah, God is describing what things will be like when there is a new heaven and a new earth.

He says, Before they call I will answer;
    while they are yet speaking I will hear.

—Isaiah 65:24

I feel that I experienced this today.

How blessed we are to have a heavenly Father who cares about us and hears us when we call.

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Anyone Who Calls

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For salvation that comes from trusting Christ—which is what we preach—is already within easy reach of each of us; in fact, it is as near as our own hearts and mouths.  For if you tell others with your own mouth that Jesus Christ is your Lord and believe in your own heart that God has raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For it is by believing in his heart that a man becomes right with God; and with his mouth he tells others of his faith, confirming his salvation.

 For the Scriptures tell us that no one who believes in Christ will ever be disappointed.  Jew and Gentile are the same in this respect: they all have the same Lord who generously gives his riches to all those who ask him for them.  Anyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.

 But how shall they ask him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them?

—Romans 10:8-14

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A Second Time

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In the Old Testament, God directed Jonah to go and speak to the people of Ninevah.

There was a problem:

Jonah didn’t want to go.

In fact, Jonah traveled away to remove himself from the situation.

After enduring the events that were the result of his disobedience, we find that God gave Jonah a second chance.

Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time:  “Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.”

 Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very large city; it took three days to go through it. Jonah began by going a day’s journey into the city, proclaiming, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.”  The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.

–Jonah 3:1-5

I have some azalea bushes by my kitchen window.

When they bloom, they are a vibrant pink color.

There’s been a problem, however.

For the past year or two, they really haven’t been blooming.

Maybe an occasional flower, maybe not.

It looked to me like the bushes were dying and simply going away.

I didn’t try to cut them down or uproot them.

Instead, I paid more attention to other plants that I had in the yard.

For some reason, the remaining, spindly azalea bushes by the window decided to bloom.

Now.

In December.

I am thrilled at their new lease on life as I look at their beauty.

They had a second chance.

When I look at them, I can be reminded that people, as well as bushes, can change for the better.

God is a God of second chances.

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Contentment Is Not In Wealth

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If I lived in the biggest house I could imagine with the finest of furnishings, but I knew things were not right between me and God, would I be content?

If I drove the finest car on the market, but I knew things were not right between me and God, would I be content?

If I could travel around the world to see the most magnificent sights known to man, but I knew things were not right between me and God, would I be content?

If I were famous, and millions of people applauded my accomplishments, but I knew things were not right between me and God, would I be content?

Would you?

But as for me, my contentment is not in wealth but in seeing you and knowing all is well between us. And when I awake in heaven, I will be fully satisfied, for I will see you face-to-face.

—Psalm 17:15

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Without Blemish or Defect

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Christmas.

A time to remember that God sent His Son, Jesus, to the world.

He sent Him for us–to redeem us from death and bring us to life.

He was a lamb without blemish or defect.

Our Savior.

Jesus.

Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear.  For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors,  but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.  He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake.  Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.

–1 Peter 1:17-21

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I’m on the Right Way

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I am grateful to God for placing my feet on the right path many years ago.

Just having turned 19 years of age, I was weary and worn from making my own decisions.

Coming to the place where I realized that I needed to invite Jesus to be the Lord of my life, I repented of my sin and asked for  forgiveness.

Since that time, my feet have been on the right path.

I’ve fallen a few times.

Actually, more than a few.

But I fell while on the right path that God placed me on, and I stood up each time to continue on with His help, continuing on that right path.

In a way that I cannot explain, this path “glows.”

I am drawn to remain there.

It is the only choice, as God holds my hand through the events of each day.

How about you?

Are you on the right path today?

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Now you’ve got my feet on the life path, all radiant from the shining of your face. Ever since you took my hand, I’m on the right way.

—Psalm 16:11 The Message

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right way

Known and Read by Everyone

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I don’t get mail much anymore.

Sure, I get a lot of advertisements.

Come buy a new car!

Our insurance is the best!

This credit card will work for you!

But real letters?

Written by a real person, just to me?

Asking me how I’m doing, telling me how they’re doing?

That’s rare.

I’m not any less popular or cared for than I used to be, it’s just that texting, emails and social media have taken the front seat when it comes to staying in touch with people.

Paul wrote these words about letters to the church in Corinth:

You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.

—2 Corinthians 3:2-3

Have you ever considered yourself to be a letter?

Something to be known and read by everyone?

A letter from Christ?

Written by the Spirit of God?

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Music from the Harp

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I received a surprise gift at Christmastime last year.

It was a large, hand crafted hammered dulcimer.

A beautiful harp-like instrument, with strings stretching across a wooden platform.

Played with almost weightless hammers of wood, the sound is light and percussive.

There are many types of musical instruments in the world.

As people develop new tastes from one point in history to the next, so the instruments can develop with them.

I wonder what the harp in biblical days would’ve sounded like?

Whatever the instrument we possess, we can use it in praise to God.

Sing your praise accompanied by music from the harp.  Let the cornets and trumpets shout! Make a joyful symphony before the Lord, the King!

–Psalm 98:5-6

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