The New is Here!

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It is now 9:58 in the evening.

Still another two hours before the new year, the sound of fireworks in my vicinity has already begun.

Why is it that people celebrate what is new?

A new year?

A new job?

A new baby?

Newness brings with it an open-ended invitation to possibilities.

What we have hoped might become a reality.

We are encouraged as we think of that which is to come as being “better” than what has already been.

For believers in Jesus, we celebrate our new lives.

When we yielded ourselves to God, the transformation was complete.

2 Corinthians 5:17 reads,

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!

This dramatic change–this rebirth–has made us to be a new creation.

When each of us is transformed in this way, choosing Jesus, there is a celebration of rejoicing in Heaven as well as in our hearts.

The new is here!

 

 

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new

Accept One Another

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Have you ever changed your mind about something or someone?

I can laugh about it now, but many years ago I met someone that I thought I would not like at all, based upon the little knowledge I had of him.

It’s funny because he became one of my most trusted friends.

Laughing at myself and realizing my all-too-quick assessment of another person brings me to understand that I need to contemplate my opinions more slowly and with care.

Just because someone might dress differently, speak differently, eat different kinds of food, or attend a different church than I do, it doesn’t mean that I am somehow “better” than they are.

It also doesn’t mean that we couldn’t be friends.

All believers are on a personal faith journey with Jesus.

There are some who are traveling ahead of us and some who are traveling behind us.

Some are close to our side, while others are quite a distance away.

The most important thing is who we all are—redeemed sinners, children of God.

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Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.

—Romans 15:7

 

 

 

 

 

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Mansions

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Jesus said,

“In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.”  (John 14:2)

I don’t know if there will be numbers on each mansion in Heaven or if there will be any identification or distinction between any of them at all.

I do know that Jesus spoke of them and of preparing a place for those who believe in Him.

If our earthly fathers were to build a new home for us, they would do so from a loving heart along with their financial capabilities.

If our earthly father owned a lucrative business and sustained a large bank account, we would rightly feel that a home built for us would reflect that wealth.

Our Heavenly Father owns the universe.

The most dazzling constellation is but a necklace in His hand.

The brightest, most colorful nebula is just one work of art in His gallery of creation.

Our new home in Heaven will convey His great love for us and the beauty and glory of His presence will forever surround us.

Dear Jesus, thank You for paying the price for my sins and offering me forgiveness and salvation. Thank you for my home in Heaven that awaits me and all those who love You.   ~Amen

 

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Grace

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May God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace. Jesus gave His life for our sins, just as God our Father planned, in order to rescue us from this evil world in which we live.  All glory to God forever and ever! Amen.

–Galatians 1:3-5

He gave.

He planned.

He rescued.

He gives grace.

He gives peace….

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grace

The Water I Give

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Walking by a butterfly garden, I noticed a very old water fountain.

It may have been in working order, but I didn’t try to find out.

Had I been really thirsty, I might have been more interested.

There was no guarantee that it would produce water.

Even if I had been close to dehydration, the fountain might have worked and it might not have worked.

Jesus said,

“But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.”

The whole of humanity is not thirsty; we are, however, in need of a Savior.

Jesus is that Savior and we need look no further for another one.

Once we have Jesus, that is enough.

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Mercy

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What does mercy mean to you?

The Merrriam-Webster dictionary defines it this way:

Kind or forgiving treatment of someone who could be treated harshly.

It also offers a second explanation:

Kindness or help given to people who are in a very bad or desperate situation.

Because of sin, we deserve harsh treatment.

Because of God’s love, we are offered kind and forgiving treatment.

Because of sin, we were all in a very bad and desperate situation.

Because of God’s love, we can be redeemed from that situation.

God’s mercy endures forever!

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Psalm 136:1 reads,

“Give thanks to the LORD because He is good, because His mercy endures forever.”

 

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mercy

Release to the Captives

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While visiting family for a Christmas meal earlier today, I noticed a ceramic statue in the living room.

This work of art seemed to speak of freedom as the open hands were releasing a bird to the sky.

We may know freedom, as well.

Freedom that only Jesus can give.

Freedom to everyone who is downtrodden.

Luke 4:14-19 reads:

And Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit; and news about Him spread through all the surrounding district. And He began teaching in their synagogues and was praised by all.

     And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and as was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read. And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. And He opened the book, and found the place where it was written,

     “THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD IS UPON ME,
            BECAUSE HE ANOINTED ME TO PREACH THE GOSPEL TO THE POOR.
            HE HAS SENT ME TO PROCLAIM RELEASE TO THE CAPTIVES,
            AND RECOVERY OF SIGHT TO THE BLIND,
            TO SET FREE THOSE WHO ARE DOWNTRODDEN,

     TO PROCLAIM THE FAVORABLE YEAR OF THE LORD.”

 

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release

It is the Gift of God

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Gifts will be given this Christmas to show love to one another.

The greatest gift given in history is the gift of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave Himself as a sacrifice for our salvation.

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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.  For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—  not by works, so that no one can boast.

—Ephesians 2:4-8

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Whoever Believes

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Recently, I watched a televised launch of a rocket delivering satellites to space.

This is a fairly common occurrence, at least to me and millions of other people around the world.

As I watched, however, the thought came to me that, even with all the fantastic technical knowledge that went into bringing that event into reality, there were still people on the planet who had never seen a car before…

As a relatively small amount of people in the world watched live camera feed from the side of a rocket that was placing satellites at strategic points in space while traveling at about 17 thousand miles per hour, there were no doubt people going about their lives in secluded forests or mountains, foraging for food, knowing only about their nearby surroundings and nothing else.

Yet, for both types of people—those that stare at numbers and share ideas, culminating with events like rocket launches and those that know very little beyond themselves and their families—God is there.

As He looks on us—the people of the world that He has made—He does so with love and yearning, I believe.

Yearning for all to know Him.

Jesus came to earth on that first Christmas as a baby, born to one day die on the cross.

To die on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins.

No matter who we are in this world—highly educated or uneducated, rich or poor, old or young—God loves us all just the same.

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For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.

—John 3:16

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For the Joy

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What is joy?

What is happiness?

Recently, I heard someone say that joy was the result of Jesus and that happiness was the result of happenings.

This is one of those statements that can be taken apart and pondered over from every angle.

What kinds of happenings make us happy?

Driving a new car?

Getting married?

Being selected for a special job?

Winning a medal?

Having a baby?

Finishing school?

Falling in love?

Almost anything could make us happy in the right circumstances.

What kind of joy does Jesus give?

That’s more difficult to describe, isn’t it?

A sense of deep personal worth.

A strong awareness of His presence.

A faith that comforts.

A belief that above all else, we are loved.

Joy comprises all these and more.

Of great importance is the distinction between things that could happen and what is already and forever in existence.

The joy in our heart that comes from Jesus fills our souls, remaining a constant source.

Happiness from any given situation may flourish and then decrease.

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Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.

—from Nehemiah 8:10

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joy of the LORD

 

 

With Peace

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As I walked along, I saw a beautiful Christmas tree delicately decorated with ornaments.

Looking more closely, I realized there were many ornaments of birds.

There’s something about a small bird sitting quietly and safely in a tree branch that gives a feeling of serenity.

If you think about it, when danger seems to be near, birds will flee.

Their calm presence makes a subtle statement of peace.

Psalm 29:11 reads:

The LORD gives strength to His people; the LORD blesses His people with peace.

It is fitting to have joyful, peaceful bird ornaments at Christmas.

What a perfect time to remember that Jesus is the Prince of Peace.

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with peace

Glory to God

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What would it have been like on that night long ago to have seen the angels appearing?

I have always thought of this scene with the angels filling the night sky and the shepherds looking up at them.

The passage below really doesn’t say that.

I wonder if the angels were standing with them.

The shepherds had the glory of the Lord shining about them.

Imagine–light ALL around you.

Imagine–an angel right there with you.

Imagine–a MULTITUDE of angels all standing around you praising God!

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

 

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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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peace good will

A Light for My Path

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This wooden bridge is one of my very favorite places.

Silently, it gives a subtle invitation-

“Come travel to the other side.”

Each board that was placed above the water joins with another and another to finally complete the safe passageway.

As we journey on in our lives, God’s word guides us.

Traveling over one board in the bridge and then another, His word is a light that allows us to see our proper course–

until we get to the other side….

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Your word is a lamp to guide me
    and a light for my path.

—Psalm 119:105

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for my path

You Are

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Am I a light for others?

Am I shining around other people?

This Christmas, what I am proclaiming to others by the way I talk and the things I do?

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“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.  Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

—Matthew 5:13-16

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light of

A Branch

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The frosted ferns for sale in the store looked interesting.

I had not seen this type of plant before.

Displayed as a plant for Christmas time, the tips of the fronds gave a hint of snow.

Christmas is the time when we remember that Jesus came to Earth as a baby.

His coming was not a surprise.

It was a prophecy fulfilled.

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A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
    from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
 The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—
    the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
    the Spirit of counsel and of might,
    the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord
 and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.

—Isaiah 11:1-3

 

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Branch

Set in Their Places

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This year, there will be a full moon on Christmas.

That hasn’t happened since 1977.

In fact, it’s only happened three times since 1900.

So, when will it occur again on Christmas?

The year 2034….

Figuring out such things requires a great deal of scientific and mathematical knowledge and expertise—a task for the highly educated.

Keeping the moon in orbit around the earth and the earth sailing around the sun and the sun in its place in the Milky Way requires a Creator with ultimate power—a task that only God can handle.

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O Lord, our Lord,
    Your greatness is seen in all the world!
Your praise reaches up to the heavens;
 it is sung by children and babies.
You are safe and secure from all Your enemies;
    You stop anyone who opposes You.

 When I look at the sky, which You have made,
    at the moon and the stars, which You set in their places—
 what are human beings, that You think of them;
    mere mortals, that You care for them?

—Psalm 8:1-4

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mortals

Prince of Peace

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For to us a child is born, to us a Son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulder, and His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting  Father, Prince of Peace.

—Isaiah 9:6

While visiting a large city, I saw a building with crosses on the rooftop.
With gold colored accents, the structure seems majestic.
As we celebrate the birth of Jesus, we remember who He is and who we are.
He is our Savior.
He is our Prince of Peace.
We are His forgiven children…

 

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everlasting

Bethlehem

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Imagine being sick.

Really sick.

You arrive at the hospital and soon you are admitted.

After tests have been run, the doctors identify what the illness is.

The bad news: this illness can be fatal without the proper medicine.

The good news: the medicine is available, but it has to be ordered and shipped into the hospital.

During the next few days, you become even more severely ill.

Time is running out.

When you begin to think you can’t make it any longer, a nurse comes into your room and announces that the medicine has arrived.

Because of it, you will live.

When Jesus was born, all that was needed for our spiritual healing had arrived.

The bad news: Without Him, our condition was fatal.

The good news: With Him, we may live.

Jesus would pay the penalty for our sins on the cross one day, offering us the gift of eternal life.

This Christmas, do you know Jesus as your Savior?

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After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem  and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah 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 shepherd my people Israel.’”

—Matthew 2:1-6

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ruler

The Son of the Most High

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A very beautiful Christmas song is “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming.”

I have been listening to an instrumental version this Christmas season.

Here are the words, telling of the coming of Jesus:

Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming

Behold, a Branch is growing
Of loveliest form and grace,
as prophets sung, foreknowing;
It springs from Jesse’s race
And bears one little Flow’r
In midst of coldest winter,
At deepest midnight hour.

Isaiah hath foretold it
In words of promise sure,
And Mary’s arms enfold it,
A virgin meek and pure.
Thro’ God’s eternal will
This Child to her is given
At midnight calm and still.

The shepherds heard the story,
Proclaimed by angels bright,
How Christ, the Lord of Glory,
Was born on earth this night.
To Bethlehem they sped
And in a manger found him,
As angel heralds said.

This Flow’r whose fragrance tender
With sweetness fills the air,
Dispels with glorious splendor
The darkness ev’rywhere.
True Man, yet very God;
From sin and death He saves us
And lightens ev’ry load.

O Saviour, Child of Mary,
Who felt our human woe;
O Saviour, King of Glory,
Who dost our weakness know,
Bring us at length we pray,
To the bright courts of Heaven
And to the endless day.

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In the Bible, we have the account of how an angel was sent to Mary:

The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.  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.”

—Luke 1:28-33

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Light of the World

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While in another city, I visited an area with a log cabin.

A lamp was hanging from the ceiling.

With it up high, it could illuminate quite an area.

Without light, the cabin could only be in darkness when night arrived.

Jesus is our light:

 

 

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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light of life

I’m Slipping, Lord!

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I will forever be thankful that God saved me years ago.

Since that time, have I had doubts fill my mind about one thing or another?

Yes.

Has my heart ever been in turmoil?

Many times.

Who then, can quiet me and give me renewed hope?

Only God….

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I would have died unless the Lord had helped me.  I screamed, “I’m slipping, Lord!” and he was kind and saved me. Lord, when doubts fill my mind, when my heart is in turmoil, quiet me and give me renewed hope and cheer.—Psalm 94:17-19

 

 

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slipping

Prince of Peace

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At the Advent gathering, each of us lit a candle, giving a word of testimony to those around the table.

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For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulder, and His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

—Isaiah 9:6

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Now is the Time

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If you do not know Jesus as your Savior, today could be the day you change that.

If you do not know what would happen to you if you were to die, today could be the day that know for sure.

If you do not know that God is ready and willing to forgive you, accept you and save you, today is the day you can be confident that He does.

Ask Him for forgiveness.

Tell Him you believe.

Commit your life to Him.

Today…..

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As God’s co-workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain.  For he says,

“In the time of my favor I heard you,
    and in the day of salvation I helped you.”

I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.

—2 Corinthians 6:1-2

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favor

Content

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After finishing a late afternoon photo session, I drove along the country highway.

Deciding that I needed to make a cell phone call, I pulled over into a residential area off onto the side of an entrance road.

After stopping the car, I noticed a beautiful horse in the field nearby, the muted colors of the sunset setting his coat all aglow.

He looked calm and unhurried.

Serene.

Content.

He had what he needed.

Food.

Water.

A place to call home.

Hebrews 13:5 reads:

Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

 

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content

Find Pasture

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My friend’s land out in the countryside is comfortable and inviting.

Grass, green and lush, is accompanied with trees and a pond that naturally reflects its surroundings.

I can imagine a flock of sheep finding it to be a perfect place to stay.

Jesus talked about His followers as sheep.

Good pasture awaits those who daily go out and come in.

They will have life and it will be full.

 

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Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep.  All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them.  I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.They will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

—John 10:7-10

 

 

 

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find pasture

The Road That Leads to Life

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There is a lakeside park that I enjoy visiting about an hour’s drive from my home.

Besides the scenic view over the water, the wild birds that frequent the area and the peaceful atmosphere, the stone street that runs through it is very inviting and nostalgic.

Flanked with vintage street lights and flags, the thoroughfare is inviting and spacious.

If given the choice, I would most definitely choose to walk down this lovely street than on a narrow footpath off to the side.

After all, who wouldn’t?

Jesus spoke about choosing the right road spiritually.

We can choose the road that most people take.

The faithless road apart from Him.

It’s big, wide and spacious.

It’s inviting and flanked with alluring temptations.

There’s one problem, though–

It leads to destruction….

 

The other road is narrow.

Only a few choose it.

It is a road of faith in Jesus, leading to life.

The wide road is appealing and enticing, for sure.

But choosing that one over the narrow road of faith in Jesus is just not worth it.

It’s not worth your own destruction.

Instead, choose life.

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Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.  But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

—Matthew 7:13-14

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narrow gate

 

 

 

 

 

 

And on Earth

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Christmas is about Jesus.

When our oldest two sons were small, we would talk to them about the real meaning of Christmas.

Once, while waiting in line at a store, our second son told another customer something like this:

“Santa Claus is pretend Christmas. Jesus is real Christmas.”

Yes.

Real Christmas is about Jesus.

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Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night.  And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.  For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, 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, goodwill toward men!”

–Luke 2:8-14

 

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and on earth

The Word of Our God

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The flowers beside my house are beautiful, but the weather is changing and I know the flowers will succumb to the cold eventually.

Things change.

It is part of life.

One thing is constant, however–

God’s word.

 

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The grass withers,

the flowers fade,

but the word of our God

shall stand forever.

—Isaiah 40:8

 

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flowers fade

Quick at Mending Fences

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The fence I photographed looked perfect.

It is obvious that it had been well taken care of.

How quick are we at “mending fences” in our relationships?

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In light of all this, here’s what I want you to do. While I’m locked up here, a prisoner for the Master, I want you to get out there and walk—better yet, run!—on the road God called you to travel. I don’t want any of you sitting around on your hands. I don’t want anyone strolling off, down some path that goes nowhere. And mark that you do this with humility and discipline—not in fits and starts, but steadily, pouring yourselves out for each other in acts of love, alert at noticing differences and quick at mending fences.

Ephesians 4:1-3 The Message

 

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acts love