Admirable

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

–Philippians 4:8

 

What happens if you focus your thinking on good things?

Honorable things?

Things that are good?

When that is the case, how do you feel?

If you are really thinking about good things, positive things, things that God is pleased with—–do you usually find yourself to be angry? Bitter? Jealous? Depressed?

Most likely not.

What happens if you focus on negative things?

Dishonorable things?

Things that are bad?

When that is the case, how do you feel?

If you are really thinking about bad things, negative things, things that God isn’t pleased with—-do you usually find yourself to be cheerful? Loving? Giving? Joyful?

Most likely not.

I get to select what I willfully put into my mind.

Books.

Television.

Computer.

Movies.

Even the people I purpose to spend time with.

You get to select those things, too.

What I put into my mind, I often focus on.

What is my mind focusing on today?

What about yours?

 

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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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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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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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Always Be Joyful

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As I was walking to my car this morning to travel to work, I suddenly noticed something unusual across the street in my neighbor’s yard.

I probably thought something like, “What are those things?”

Within a second or two, I realized that I was looking at five wild turkeys, enjoying the moist grass before the sun was completely up.

Scrambling to get my camera out, I was able to photograph a couple of the turkeys, as the other three had mosied on behind my neighbor’s house.

What makes me happy?

What makes me joyful?

Many, many things.

Among them is the rare sighting of a wild animal or bird.

I could go to a zoo and enjoy seeing a wide variety of animals, but there is just something very special to me about seeing them in their natural habitat.

I know God wants me to be joyful in living my life for Him.

This morning was just one more of those joyful times…..

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Always be joyful.
—-1 Thessalonians 5:16

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The Desires of Your Heart

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The sun was setting as I went for a walk in the neighborhood.

I consciously thought of enjoying the time, taking in the reality of the moments I was being blessed with.

The sunlight was still falling on the trees in the orange grove beside my house, giving them a warm glow as they nestled in the thick green grass that had succumbed to the shadows.

Turning around, I noticed the flowering Crepe Myrtle trees in my yard, towering high with bundles of color.

A dog barked in the distance.

Gopher turtles had dug holes in the ground to shelter themselves in many places I walked.

The pink, fluffy clouds to the south looked like a lovely painting.

If I had decorated a room especially for someone, I wonder how I would feel if they entered it, but failed to notice or appreciate the decorations?

Day after day, God creates unspeakable beauty in our surroundings.

He gives it especially to us, to appreciate and enjoy.

Instead of hurrying through the hours and moments I am given, failing to notice and appreciate the creative works of His hands, I should take the time to enjoy what He has prepared with a thankful and grateful heart.

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Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

—Psalm 34:7

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Make a Loud Noise

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As I was turning into my friend’s neighborhood, I happened to look toward the west.

What I saw was so incredible!

A giant anvil cloud was absolutely bursting into the atmosphere.

It appeared to be so large, it dwarfed the houses and trees below.

Pulling my car to the side of the road, I immediately got my camera out to photograph such a stunning sight.

From where I was, the massive cloud structure made no sound, yet its presence was loud and commanding.

Psalm 98:4 reads,

“Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all the earth: make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise.”

In those moments, the clouds and the sun sang a duet of silent, yet loud, praise to their Maker.

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And With My Song

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The melodic sound of the cardinal rang out all through the yard.

He had found his way to the very top of one of the tallest trees.

There, for all to hear, he sang….

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The Lord is my strength and my shield;

my heart trusts in Him,

and He helps me.

My heart leaps for joy,

and with my song

I praise Him.

—Psalm 28:7

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my song

I Lack Nothing

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The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures,
He leads me beside quiet waters,
     He refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
    for His name’s sake.
 Even though I walk
    through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
    for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff,
    they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
 Surely Your goodness and love will follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
    forever.

—Psalm 23

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Let Us Love

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I received three gifts this week from my sons.

They were gifts of love, and I will cherish that love, because my heart is filled with love for them.

In thinking about these recent gifts, something deep inside of me realizes that the gifts were not just from them.

God was loving me through my sons and their thoughfulness.

When I think of the love shown to me this week, my heart will smile.

God loves me…

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1 John 4:7-8

 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.  Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.

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Along the Road

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There was once a blind man.

A man who was alive at the time Jesus was here on Earth.

This blind man’s life would soon be changed forever:

Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means “son of Timaeus”), was sitting by the roadside begging.  When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

 Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

 Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”

So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.”  Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.

“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him.

The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.”

“Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.

—Mark 10:46-52

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What do you think you would do if you had been that blind man?

Would you have followed Jesus on the road?

What if that happened today?

Would you get in the car with Jesus and just go with Him down the road, wherever He went?

Jesus has given us the greatest gift of all.

The gift of salvation.

The gift of eternity with Him in Heaven.

Should we get in our cars and follow Him along the road, wherever He goes?

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Rejoice and Be Glad

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Driving along in the shopping area of a nearby city, my husband noticed a fountain that had been placed in the parking lot.

As we drove past the plumes of pulsing water, he noticed that a duck had found the fountain, as well.

Quickly, I grabbed my camera and got out of the car while my husband found a place to park.

The duck was quite obliging in my quest to photograph him as he was enjoying his moments of refreshment.

His orange feet and toes were being constantly washed with the motion of the water as though he were standing in a Jacuzzi tub.

He was magnificently colored with a bright blue stripe on his side.

God created ducks to joyously live and play in the water.

On a hot day, surrounded by concrete and parked cars, this bird found an unexpected respite.

In the middle of an inhospitable environment, a silent invitation to play, drink, and cool off was answered by a

mottled duck, happy to accept.

Aren’t there times when God provides such things for us?

On a tired afternoon, when weariness weighs heavy, suddenly—–there it is.

An encouraging note from a friend, a surprise birthday party or a roadside park, complete with a bench in the shade.

God knows what we need and He knows what brings us joy.

This is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.

—Psalm 118:24

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What Is It, Lord?

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It was a clear night and totally perfect for viewing.

A friend had told me about an application for my cell phone that would inform me of visable passes of the International Space Station.

Being excited about possibly seeing it pass overhead, I went outside just a few moments before it was to appear.

Staring at the sky in the area that it was supposed to be coming from, I saw an airplane at first.

Then, I found it!

Gliding smoothly through the sky like a pearl dropping effortlessly through a container of oil, its bright white light traveled over a backdrop of darkness.

I hadn’t even thought about photographing it.

I did have my cell phone with me because I had wanted to refer to the application to learn exactly the time it was to come by my area.

Quickly, I took a photo of it with my phone.

Of course, the photograph did not turn out well, but I had to try.

Looking at it later, it actually looks like more than just a white dot in the sky.

Although it is terribly fuzzy, I can almost make out a shape within the area of light.

When the next pass happens, I’m going to be out with camera in hand, ready to see what I can do!

Besides the International Space Station, I know that there are many satellites that orbit the earth.

It is still amazing to consider how a satellite can transmit a sports event to various places around the globe as it is occurring.

Messages and images can reach people separated by great distances at the same moment.

Pondering this idea, I realize that God sometimes works in this way.

He may be preparing the heart of one person to hear a message from Him at the same time He is preparing the heart of another.

In the book of Acts, chapter 10, we find the account of the meeting of Cornelius and Peter.

At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion in what was known as the Italian Regiment. He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly.  One day at about three in the afternoon he had a vision. He distinctly saw an angel of God, who came to him and said, “Cornelius!”

 Cornelius stared at him in fear. “What is it, Lord?” he asked.

The angel answered, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God.  Now send men to Joppa to bring back a man named Simon who is called Peter. He is staying with Simon the tanner, whose house is by the sea.”

 When the angel who spoke to him had gone, Cornelius called two of his servants and a devout soldier who was one of his attendants.  

—verses 1-7

Cornelius told these men everything and had them start on a journey to Joppa. Before the men could reach Peter, God sent a vision to Peter. Afterwards, God spoke to Peter as the men arrived at the house, telling him to go with them, because He has sent them.

God sent a vision to Cornelius about Peter.

He obeyed God’s instructions.

God sent a vision to Peter, preparing him to meet Cornelius.

He obeyed His instructions.

When I see God at work in my own life or in other’s lives in this way, it brings great joy to my heart.

It is a time when I realize God’s plan for that moment is coming together with divine direction—across the street, across the country or across the world.

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what is it

Love

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Do you remember the sound of your mother’s voice when you were a child as she called you to come into the house?

What did it sound like when your father called out, motioning you to get into the car to go for a drive?

If you close your eyes and become still for a moment, can you recall their faces when they presented you with a gift?

Was there a day when one of them told you to step quietly to a tree because a nest of baby birds had started to chirp high in the branches?

Can you reassemble the memory of your parents sitting proudly in the audience at one of your ballgames, recitals, plays or graduations?

What did their faces show?

Loving parents live with an awareness of where their children are.

When it is “time to come in” to the house, they instruct them to do so, providing guidance, shelter and direction.

Parents keep children by their sides most of the time, grasping hold of moments to share new things with them.

As a parent gives a gift to their child, there is joy in seeing the delight in their son or daughter’s eyes.

When a parent sees the opportunity to introduce their child to something of wonder, there is a certain happiness that comes from seeing a look of awestruck fascination forming on their little one’s face.

As a loving mom or dad gazes out to the ball field, theater stage or concert hall, their hearts fill with gladness at the knowledge of their children’s dedication to giving their best.

Our Heavenly Father knows where His children are every second.

When it is best to “come in” He calls to us to rest in His shelter.

Our Creator grasps hold of moments in our lives to share new things with us.

When our Heavenly Father chooses a gift for us, surely there must be joy as He sees the delight in our eyes upon receiving it.

As He shows us more and more of His great wonders, don’t you suppose that He is pleased with our fascination?

When He has given us opportunities to give our best in following His leading, don’t you suppose that our Heavenly Father is glad as He sees our efforts?

When our Heavenly Father knows that we love Him, don’t you think it makes Him smile?

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love

Be Joyful

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Almost every day at work, I make a list.

A “to do” list.

If I don’t, I risk forgetting something very important.

And if I forget something important that I was supposed to do, a lot of my day–or even my week– could go wrong.

I have sticky notes on the edge of my computer screen for important dates to remember.

Often, I have a paper on my desk, listing my tasks.

It is ready for me to add to it at any moment.

In the 12th chapter of Romans, there is also a “to do” list.

Here are just a few of the things listed that should be on our list:

Love must be sincere.

Hate what is evil;

cling to what is good.

Be devoted to one another in love.

Honor one another above yourselves.

Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.

Share with the Lord’s people who are in need.

Practice hospitality.

—-Romans 12:12-13

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Maybe I should copy this down and place it on my desk at work.

If I forget about these things, a lot of my day–and even my week–could go wrong.

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joyful

Shout for Joy

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The sun was going down as I walked with my husband in the quiet little town.

We had been looking at birds overhead and at birds in the water.

The colors in the sky were in constant visual motion, changing hue with each passing moment.

God was creating the once-in-a-lifetime scene, and we were witnesses to see its beauty.

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They who dwell

in the ends

of the earth

stand in awe

of Your signs;

You make the dawn

and the sunset

shout for joy.

—Psalm 65:8

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On Wings Like Eagles

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Do you feel weary today?

Are you weak?

Are you tired?

Are you stumbling, feeling like you’ve fallen too far to get back up?

There is hope for you, for me and for all of us.

That hope is in the Lord.

I photographed an eagle yesterday.

The wingspan was wide and powerful looking.

If we hope in the Lord, the Bible tells us we will renew our strength and we will soar on wings like eagles.

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Do you not know?
    Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
    and his understanding no one can fathom.
 He gives strength to the weary
    and increases the power of the weak.
 Even youths grow tired and weary,
    and young men stumble and fall;
 but those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint.

—Isaiah 40:28-31

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To the Throne of Grace

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Below are some of the lyrics to a popular Christian song:

Lord, I come, I confess
Bowing here I find my rest
Without You I fall apart
You’re the One that guides my heart
Lord, I need You, oh, I need You
Every hour I need You
My one defense, my righteousness
Oh God, how I need You
Where sin runs deep Your grace is more
Where grace is found is where You are
And where You are, Lord, I am free
Holiness is Christ in me
Teach my song to rise to You
When temptation comes my way
And when I cannot stand I’ll fall on You
Jesus, You’re my hope and stay

(from “Lord, I Need You” by Matt Maher)

Lately, the words, “And when I cannot stand I’ll fall on You” have gone to a special place in my heart.

How precious to even consider that during our greatest weakness, God is there for us to fall on.
In recent weeks, several people that I know have faced extreme circumstances.
In fact, some of them are still facing these trials today.
This song, when changed to an intercessory prayer, is a comfort to me concerning them:

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Lord, they come, they confess
Bowing there, they find their rest
Without You they would fall apart
You’re the One that guides their heart
Lord, they need You, oh, they need You
Every hour they need You
Their one defense, their righteousness
Oh God, how they need You
Where sin runs deep Your grace is more
Where grace is found is where You are
And where You are, Lord, they are free
Holiness is Christ in them
Teach their song to rise to You
When temptation comes their way
And when they cannot stand let them fall on You
Jesus, You’re their hope and stay
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My heart is solemn as I yearn for healing of every situation in the lives of my each of my friends who are facing troubles.
God is the only One who can take care of each of the needs.
What a precious privilege to have the gift of prayer.
Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.—Hebrews 4:16

 

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Throne of Grace

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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every man

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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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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birth

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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