Lose Your Grip
Luann Prater

"Come to me…” Matthew 11:28 (NIV)

Toddlers invaded our house last week. First it was one, then two, then a house full! We love it when the grandkids come to visit. They teach us so many things about life. I’m sure that is why Jesus said, unless we come to him like little children we just won’t get it.

As my grandson began his journey up from the basement play room, his hands were loaded with toys; a truck and action figure in one hand, a ball in the other and a book tucked under his arm. His tiny finger reached for the railing, but his arms were gripping his toys so tightly that he couldn’t grab it. He was ready to join Grandma in the kitchen for some snacks, but he simply couldn’t bear to leave his toys behind.

I watched him struggle as he took that first step. He wobbled to and fro, so I reached out my hand to help. “I do it!” he proclaimed. I kept my hand outstretched offering, but never forcing my help. Finally one foot triumphantly reached the first riser, he glanced up as if to say, “See, I can do it.” As his weight shifted to pull the other leg up, the book at his side began to slip. He paused to readjust, the ball popped from his hand bouncing down the steps.

His lip quivered, but he was not giving up the battle. Looking at me now would just be too humiliating, so he pretended not to see me or my hand. With each step came the same scenario; wobbling, slipping, readjusting, frustration. His eyelashes that bat my face with kisses lost the battle of refraining a pool of tears. They spilled onto his face. Fingers that once gripped his treasures, purposely loosened and reached for my hand.

Aren’t we so like that with our Father? He stands with outstretched arms saying, “Come to me…” and we won’t make eye contact because we are holding on to our treasures. And often it just seems too humiliating to admit we are refusing to let go. It may not be a Ninja Turtle, a book or a ball, but we hold onto to other treasures. Our jobs, our family, our security, our past and even our service to Christ often receive a stronghold grip.

We would rather wobble through sorrow than give up control. We would rather slip and stumble than let go of our pride. We would rather readjust our grip than reach out.

When my grandson was safe and secure at the top of the stairs, I picked up all of his treasures and brought them to him. Then we shared some quality time and a wonderful snack. Hmmm…I wonder what Christ would give us back if we surrendered it all?

Isn’t it time we became like little children and totally trust the outstretched, nail- scarred hands that beckon us, “Come to me….?”

Father, today I drop my treasures at Your feet and ask You to forgive me for hanging on so tightly to the things of this world. Break the strongholds in my life that keep me from drawing close to You. Teach me to trust You as I reach out and grab my Master’s hand. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Additional Resources:
Running on Empty by Arron Chambers

Women Who do too Much by Patricia Sprinkle

Application Steps:
Examine your life. List the things in your life that occupy your time and attention. Rank them, with one being the most important.

Now pray over them and ask God to give you the ability to let go of each treasure that made it onto your list.

In permanent red marker write Jesus across the entire list. Today make Him the most important priority of your day.

Read: Matthew 18:2-4

Reflection Points:
What do you have a stronghold grip on?

How do your treasures keep you from God?

Why is it so important to us to hang on to things that will perish?

Power Verses:
John 7:37, “Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.” (NIV)

John 8:12, “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.” (NIV)

Psalm 145:16. “You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing.” (NIV)

Matthew 6:19-21, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (NIV)

Labels: , ,

Hope for the Anxious Heart
Micca Monda Campbell

“Don't be troubled. You trust God, now trust in me. There are many rooms in my Father's home, and I am going to prepare a place for you. If this were not so, I would tell you plainly. When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.” John 14: 1-4 (NLT)

Ministry calls me away from home several times a year. My absence sometimes causes my youngest son to experience separation anxiety. As I’m preparing to leave, he often asks, “Where are you going and how long will you be gone?” His questions reveal his concerns about what might happen while I’m away and how will he manage without me.

I imagine the disciples must have felt the same way when Jesus told them He was preparing to leave earth and return to heaven. I can almost hear their concerns. “If you go, who will help us if our world suddenly turns upside down?”

Jesus comforts them by saying, “Don’t be troubled,” and then shares three reasons why peace should fill their hearts instead of worry.

Peace fills our hearts when we take God at His Word.
We forget that God’s Word is living and active. In it we can find every answer to our every need. Sometimes our experiences overwhelm us and we can’t see the whole picture. God’s Word is our guide. Jesus told his disciples, “You trust in God, now trust in me.” He was saying you can always take God’s Word at face value in any situation.

Peace fills our hearts when we remember that this world is not our home.
Peter encourages, “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials (1 Peter 1:6). Peter reminds us that trials only last for a little while. They are only temporary compared to eternity in heaven, our true home. How is it we endure the cold, flu infested months of winter? We endure because we know it’s only temporary and spring is soon coming! One day when you and I are in the presence of God, there will be no more suffering - no more tears, heartache, sorrow, or death. Keeping the perspective that heaven is our true and final home creates peace during hard times.

Peace fills our hearts because Jesus is coming back!
I reassure my son by reminding him that my trip will not last forever. I will return. In the meantime, he can talk to me by phone whenever he needs. Likewise we find comfort in knowing that one day Jesus will return for us. Notice that He says, “I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.” Jesus is not going to send for you or me. He is going to come himself and take us to a special place that He has prepared so that we will never be apart again. In the meantime, we have His Word and can talk to Him through prayer anytime at any place.

If life’s problems have left you feeling lonely and depressed, remember Christ’s words …"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

Christ has not left you alone. Trust in God’s Word. Allow these truths to dispel the lie of your emotions, and peace will be your companion until Christ returns for us.

Dear Lord, thank You for Your Word that never changes and still communicates Your love, truth, and guidance everyday. Thank You for prayer so that I can talk with You anytime. Mostly, thank You for heaven, my eternal home. Help me not to be overly concerned with this world, but to keep my gaze upward anticipating Your return. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Additional Resources:
Do you know Him?

Micca Campbell’s Testimony on DVD

Application Steps:
Search God’s Word until you find a verse or passage that speaks directly to your situation. Ask God to reveal its truth as you mediate on the verse. Then, apply that truth to your situation.

Reflections Points:
What causes you to have anxiety, fear, a need to control, or a lack of faith?

How do you usually deal with anxiety?

How can trusting in God’s Word calm your heart?

How does the truth, “I have overcome the world” affect your perspective?

Power Verses:
Psalms 119:105, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.” (NIV)

Psalms 1:1-2, “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.” (NIV)

Psalms 32: 8, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you.” (NIV)

Isaiah 35:4, “…say to those with fearful hearts, 'Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you.'" (NIV)

Labels: ,

Raising Good Kids
Sharon Glasgow

“Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up, does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil, does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” I Corinthians 13:4-7 (NKJ)

My neighbor said, “Every time I tell people where I live they ask if the Glasgows are our neighbors. I say yes and it always brings the same response. Each one of those Glasgow kids are so good. How do they do it?’ How do you and Dale do it, Sharon?”

Each child is so different and their needs and temperament so complex that only their Maker could know how they should be disciplined and nurtured. I plead for the Lord’s help daily. We audibly talk to Him, with the kids, asking Him to help us with everything from shopping to making the hard decisions. The kids know without a doubt He is the God of the Universe and that they have access to a powerful life if they consult Him over all the details of their life.

One of our family’s greatest strengths is our communication. We talk all the time. When the kids were growing up we rarely did anything without them. If my husband or I needed to go to the store, everybody went, and we talked the entire trip - still do. We plan life around being together - communicating and encouraging each other. Eating meals together when the kids are young is easy, but it is challenging when they are teenagers. It’s still important to plan mealtime together as they get older.

I also believe that listening is just as important. I have to make a conscious effort to stop thinking about my to-do list, work and the urgencies of life when the kids are talking so that I can listen attentively. They know when you’re listening at age 2 or at age 18. Many times when they are telling me about their day I’ll recite the things they said in my mind several times so that I can remember them. For instance, who is sitting next to them in class or the names of random people they talk about in their day. I listen for attitudes toward everything. How did they react to a particular event? What kind of influence are their friends having on them?

My husband and I lead by example and strive to be sacrificial in our day-to-day living. The kids know what our priorities are by how we live. Its one thing to say, “I love you.” It’s another to live it. My husband and I want our children to know they are top priority in everything we do and say.

In return, our kids talk to us about everything. They listen to us attentively and follow our advice, even as teenagers and adults. Without argument they make sure their plans don’t overlap family times. They respect us in front of friends, and in private. They are sacrificial to us, always willing to give up their own needs for the sake of ours or the family. It is truly an honor to be their parents.

I can honestly say, when God is leading your parenting, your home will be blessed.

Dear Lord, instill in me Your wisdom for raising our children. Help me to be an example of the greatest gift of all, the gift of Your love to my kids. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Additional Resources:
The Five Love Languages of Children by Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell, M.D.

The Five Love Languages of Teenagers by Gary Chapman

Application Steps:
Seek God’s Word for everyday truths to lead you and your parenting.

Loving your children should be one of your highest pursuits.

Reflection Points:
Are you a living example, today, of what you want your kids to become?

Do your children know that they are more important than your work, friends, etc?

Power Verses:
Proverbs 31:26-28, “She opens her mouth with wisdom, and on her tongue is the law of kindness. She watches over the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of her idleness. Her children rise up and call her blessed.” (NKJ)

Psalm 133:1, “How wonderful, how beautiful, when brothers and sisters get along!” (MSG)

Ephesians 6:1-2, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother.” (NASB)

Labels: , ,

Rescue Heroes
Renee Swope

“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23 (NIV)

I was looking through the clothes rack when my then two-year old son, Joshua, walked up to me with tears streaming down his chubby cheeks. He’d been playing in the children’s area of the small consignment store, but now he was pulling my hand and leading me to his injured friend - a clothes mannequin.

“Look mommy,” Joshua cried, as he pointed to the stand and the metal rod that was shooting up her back. Then he whimpered, “Ouch, that hurts.”

Overwhelmed by Joshua’s tender mercy, I almost started crying. I knelt in front of him to explain that his friend was okay. She just needed a little extra support.

Joshua’s heart was so full of compassion. It was a picture of God’s love for me that day – love that shows concern, not just with words but with actions. Joshua saw someone who was hurting, or so he thought, and he came to her rescue.

Joshua’s love-in-action reminded me of a story Jesus told about another rescue hero. There was a man who was traveling down the road one day when he noticed a hurting neighbor who had been robbed, stripped of his clothes and left for dead. Unlike others who ignored him as they passed by, this man saw the injured victim and was moved with compassion. He bandaged his wounds, took him to an inn and got him the care he needed.

Jesus told this story to show what compassion looks like. But, it was more than a story He told, it was a story He lived.

With never-failing love and compassion Jesus became our rescue hero. He had an aching awareness of our injured hearts, our sin-wrecked lives and our need for His forgiveness. He couldn’t just walk by. Instead, He came to our side. With outstretched hands He offers to heal our wounds and give us the care we need.

Today’s verse tells us that even when our hurts and our stuggles consume us, or our responsibilities, jobs and failures overwhelm us, God’s love is greater. His compassions never fail.
I love that Jesus didn’t just tell us to love, He showed us how to love - by loving us first. He told us to love sacrificially. Then He demonstrated by sacricing His life for ours. He told us to be there for others, because He was and is there for us.

So, whether you need more of His love or feel called to give His love away, remember the same compassion that brought Jesus near over 2000 years ago moves His heart toward you today.

No matter what you need, He offers healing for your hurts, comfort for your concerns and rest for your wearied soul. No matter what you face today or tomorrow, His compassions will never fail. They are new every morning!

Dear Lord, thank you for seeing my greatest needs. When I fail or feel failed by others, remind me that your compassions never fail me. Thank you for loving me with Your Words and Your actions. Help me do the same – love you and others with my life. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Additional Resources:
Who Holds the Key to Your Heart? by Lysa TerKeurst

Do you know Him?

Application steps:
Are there areas in your life that are hurting (marriage, work relationships, parenting, financial stress, etc.)? Tell God about them and ask Him to be real to you, to care for your needs, to be your rescue hero. Then look for evidence of His active love in your life - a song you hear, a sunset you see, a friend who stops by unexpectedly, or a stranger who simply smiles and asks how you are doing today.

Soak up the truth of today’s devotion. As you experience God’s love for you, look for ways to give His love and compassion to those who are hurting around you.

Reflection points:
To bring this lesson to life, read the story of the Good Samaritan (Matthew 10:23-27). Try to remember different times when you’ve needed help, when you’ve been a rescue hero, when you’ve been like the inn keeper who helped someone care for another, or when you’ve been too busy or bothered to help. We have all been in each person’s place. Ask God to show you what character you are most like today.

Power Verses:
Psalm 103:13, “As a father has compassion for his children, so the Lord has compassion for those who fear him.” (NRS)

Psalm 51:1, “Have mercy on me, O God, because of your unfailing love. Because of your great compassion, blot out the stain of my sins.” (NLT)

Isaiah 30:18, “But the Lord still waits for you to come to him so he can show you his love and compassion.” (NLT)

Labels: , ,

Finding Joy in the Shepherd’s Staff
Tracie Miles

“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me, your rod and staff, they comfort me.” Psalm 23 (NIV)

I dream in vivid color with full-length story lines and characters. I had such a wonderful dream once that I never forgot it. Before collapsing in bed, I didn’t take time to turn my burdens over to the Lord or thank Him for my many blessings. I felt too tired to spend time with Him and just wanted some rest. Thankfully that didn’t prevent God from spending time with me.

As I was sleeping, I dreamed I was in an unfamiliar place with a large crowd of people. Suddenly the crowd became very excited and everyone started running towards an auditorium, which resembled an ancient Greek amphitheater. Once inside, everyone began gazing into the blue sky. The clouds gently swirled around and around as they lowered to the earth. One of the clouds formed into a thin line making the distinct shape of a large cross.

The sun brightly shined through the clouds and all around the cloud-cross were beautiful colors that penetrated the vastness of the sky. The brilliance of the colors and light forced us to shade our eyes. As we watched, another cloud turned into the shape of a rod or staff. It looked as if an invisible hand were lowering it towards earth. Everyone brimmed with excitement, and starting chanting: “It’s Jesus! Jesus is coming! Jesus is coming!”

The excitement I felt was overwhelming, actually indescribable. The thought of seeing the face of Jesus, and standing in His presence took my breath away. My joy and anticipation felt so real. Then I was rudely awakened from this heavenly dream-state by the loud beeping of my alarm clock. I lay there for a few moments in the peaceful darkness trying to recapture the thrill of that moment before the tasks of the day filled my thoughts.

The cross is a symbol of the sacrifice that was made when God sent His son to die in our place. Through the cross, we can unite in spirit with Him. The shepherd’s staff is a symbol of protection and love. Jesus wants to protect His children and comfort them, as a shepherd would protect and comfort his sheep.

The staff in my dream was so beautiful, peacefully drifting towards the crowd of people who were anxiously awaiting the arrival of Jesus. Although the actual face of Jesus never appeared in my dream, the presence of the staff was enough to bring incredible joy to everyone in its presence. All the people knew that the staff was Jesus.

Although Jesus is invisible to the human eye today, and we can’t hold the baby Jesus as Mary did, we can hold tight to the fact that we don’t have to see His face to know His comfort and love. Jesus is present and active in our lives… even when we are sleeping … even when we are dreaming… even when we cannot see Him there.

Dear Lord, thank you for sending your Son into this world to pay the price of sin in my place. Jesus, thank You for the loving care You take of the sheep in Your flock. Be glorified today in my heart. I anxiously await your physical return. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Additional Resources:
Do you know Him?

Application Steps:
Worship Him today!

Close your eyes and try to picture in the heavens, the figure of Jesus’ staff gently floating towards the earth. Lay your burdens down and allow Him to cleanse your soul today, and fill your heart with comfort and peace.

Reflection Points:
Have you placed your trust in the work of the cross and staff of Christ?

Can you find joy in knowing Jesus watches over you like a shepherd cares for his sheep?

Have you worshipped Him today?

Power Verses:
Job 33:26, “He prays to God and finds favor with him, he sees God’s face and shouts for joy.” NIV)

Psalm 16:11, “You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” ( NIV)

Psalm 28:7, “The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy, and I will give thanks to him in song.” (NIV)

Labels: ,

A Christmas Miracle
Micca Monda Campbell

"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16:33 (NIV)

Christmas has always been a time for celebration and joy for our family. However, a few years ago we were consumed by grief over our nephew who was a troubled kid. Our sadness threatened to rob the sacred holiday of the usual awe and wonder we felt. I began to pray. “Please, God, don’t let us miss Christmas.”

It is our tradition for family and friends to join us for Christmas dinner. This year was no different. The house was full of those who had come to celebrate.

Our home glittered with lights and tinsel both inside and out. The presents were sorted into piles according to the nametags that were located a top each gift and tucked slightly under the bow. Aromas of holiday foods cooking in the kitchen made our mouths water with anticipation. Outwardly, all seemed right, yet for my family, no celebration or sweet treat could comfort our hearts. Again, I prayed. “Lord, please don’t let us miss Christmas.”

As the evening drew to a close Cody, a friend of our son, put on his coat. “Merry Christmas,” he said, waving bye with his hand high in the air.

Cody had joined the Marines and was due to report after graduation. He fiddled with his jacket as if he was hesitating. “Are you excited about the Marines?” I asked.

“I wish I had never joined. I’m told the only way to get out of it is not to graduate. So I’m not going to finish school,” Cody said as he shuffled his feet back and forth.

I sighed and began sharing with Cody what I needed to hear myself. ”Peace comes in impossible situations when we rely on God and trust Him with our future, whatever that may be.”

Stunned, Cody asked. “In order to trust and rely on God, don’t I first have to …what’s the word, ah…get saved?”

“You’ve never placed your trust in Christ to be your personal Lord and Savior?” I asked.

“No, ma'am, I haven’t,” Cody said, shaking his head back and forth.

“Well, we can fix that right now if you’d like,” I replied.

My niece and I escorted Cody into a quiet room where we explained about the love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ. Cody accepted the peace of God, and his countenance changed right in front of our faces!

With excitement, Cody announced to our guests, “Guess what everybody? I just gave my heart and life to Jesus!” Cheers filled the house and the true celebration of Christmas had finally begun! It was a Christmas miracle I’ll never forget.

God had heard my prayer. He hadn’t let us miss Christmas at all. In fact, as we looked to Christ for Cody’s sake, He was birthed anew in all our hearts.

Isn’t that why we celebrate Christmas each year? To refocus on the One who offers hope in this fallen world and fills us with lasting peace. Hope for the hurting, the sick, and the lost. Christmas reminds us to rejoice in the truth that no matter what we face on earth, Jesus has overcome the world! Gazing on Christ helps us to see, if we have Jesus, we have everything we need.

Dear Lord, Thank You for the Savior of the world who brings peace all year long. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Additional Resources:
Do you know Him?

Micca Campbell’s Testimony on DVD

Celebrating a Christ-Centered Christmas by Sharon Jaynes

Application Steps:

To receive God’s peace, visit our “Do you know Him?” section of our website and invite Jesus to be your Lord and Savior.

Reflection Points:
Do you let the pressure of buying gifts and sending cards rob you of the true joy of Christmas?

Are you focused on what you need to give others instead of focusing on what Christ wants you give you this season?

How can you make Christ the main focus of your celebration?

Regardless of your circumstances, don’t miss Christmas. Ask God to give you a fresh encounter with the Prince of Peace this year.

Power Verses:
Isaiah 9:6, “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.” (NIV)

Luke 2:11, “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” (NIV)

John 3:16, “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.” (NIV)

John 1:29, “The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (NIV)

Labels: , , , , ,

New Birth and New Beginnings
Tracie Miles

"But the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.'" Luke 2:10-12 (NIV)

It is funny how six little words on a computer screen can have such a profound impact on a person’s state of mind. Yes, just six simple little words can bring instant gloom and doom … Warning: Your memory capacity is full. When I see these words pop up on the screen (and the initial shock wears off) I understand that the end result is imminent - permanent file deletion.

Recently after seeing that message on my computer screen, I reluctantly marked all files for deletion that I thought I could live without. Putting all fears aside, I finally pressed the delete button, and instantly began to see the titles of my selected documents being whisked away into the eternal trash bin, never to be seen again. But as I watched each title appear on the screen for just a split second, each one conjured up a small memory of what I was doing when I created the document. Each document title signified an experience, whether big or small, important or insignificant. As I sat there watching, I wished that I could hit the delete button in my life sometimes.

For example: Poor choices as an adolescent – DELETE. Mistakes I made as an adult – DELETE. Damaged relationships – DELETE. Poor parenting decisions – DELETE. Losing my temper – DELETE. Acts of selfishness – DELETE. Lack of patience – DELETE. As I pondered this idea, the Holy Spirit gently spoke to my heart, “Tracie, my child, you do have a delete button – it’s called forgiveness”. Romans 3:25 says, “God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood.“

When Jesus was born on that cold winter morning over 2000 years ago, in a stable, to a virgin, surrounded by animals and the smell of hay, the ultimate delete button was birthed. Imagine God peering down from heaven, as if He were looking through the nursery window in the hospital, seeing His tiny, precious little boy, with ten fingers and toes and fresh pink skin, lying sweetly in the manger, knowing in 33 short years He would be sacrificed for our sins. What grace and mercy God has on us!

The virgin birth signifies the only gift that guarantees our forgiveness. Once we confess our sins to the Father, those sins are not only forgiven – they experience permanent deletion. Just as we could not accurately recall all the words in a document once it has been deleted, neither does God remember our sins after they are erased by His grace and forgiveness. Psalm 130:3 says “If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand?” The memory capacity of Jesus will never be full, as long as we are faithful to trust Him for forgiveness.

We sometimes grow so accustomed to hearing, “Jesus is the Reason for the Season”, that it merely becomes a cliché. But it’s an awesome, undeniable truth. For those of us who believe in the birth of the one true Savior, we must continue to proclaim that Christmas is Christ. Let’s thank Christ for deleting our sins, and providing an eternity of new beginnings.

Lord, please help me to remember that you truly are the reason for the Christmas season. Thank you for sending your Son on Christmas day, so that I could be forgiven and enjoy eternal life in heaven with You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Additional Resources:
Do you know Him?

P31 Woman Magazine

His Princess, Love Letters from Your King by Sherri Rose Shepherd

Get Over It and Get On With It by Michelle McKinney Hammond

Application Steps:
Pray earnestly during the Christmas season and thank God for the gift of His son. Have family devotion time during the holidays to remind your family the true reason for the season. Stand up for your beliefs and proclaim that Jesus was, is and always will be the most important Christmas gift of all time.

Reflection Points:
Have I asked Jesus to permanently delete my sins?

Do I allow myself to get so caught up in traditions, shopping and gift giving, that I neglect to focus on the miraculous birth of Jesus?

Power Verses:
Deuteronomy 16: 15b For the Lord your God will bless you in all your harvest and in all the work of your hands, and your joy will be complete. (NIV)

Colossians 2:13 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ He forgave us of all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he to0k it away, nailing it to the cross. (NIV)

Labels: , , , ,

Bringing Good News
Marybeth Whalen

How lovely on the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, Who announces salvation, And says to Zion, “Your God reigns!” Isaiah 52:7 (NASB)

One thing I love about the Christmas story is the response of those who heard about Jesus’ birth. Across the board, their response was the same—an immediate reaction to go out and tell everyone about Him. It began with the angels, gloriously exalting Him from the sky so that everyone could hear. The excitement spread to the shepherds, and on to the wise men. Each of them felt the urgency to share the good news of the birth of the long-awaited Savior. Not only did they hear, but they responded. Not only did they respond, they responded immediately. No grass grew under their beautiful feet!

I love that God included this part of the story for us. He did not limit the scene to the cozy stable and loving parents. He showed us how even those outside of the main action could have a part in Jesus’ story. I think this was no accident. I think God wanted us to see how we too can respond to hearing the good news of Jesus’ birth. But do we? Do we take the opportunities we have at Christmas to share the gospel—the good news?

This season is like no other as people come face to face with Jesus Christ. Just for this little window of time, the stores play songs that say His name, the decorations point to Him and many activities are focused on Him. How can we best use this window of opportunity to share Him so that this year we can inspire other people to take Him to heart? Here are just a few suggestions to use as a springboard in your own life…

Include scripture in your Christmas card or on your gift tags. Also, consider writing a letter that shares a story of how God was real to you this year, or how you experienced an answer to prayer. People love stories, and you never know how God will use this as a witness to those who receive your cards. But you have to be bold, step out of your comfort zone, and take the risk of your long distance relatives thinking you’re weird!

Find ways to bless retail salespeople during the busy shopping season. I have a friend who gives coupons for a free sandwich at a local restaurant out to each person who waits on her. This is just a little way to share God’s love with them, but it means a lot in the midst of the hectic, and sometimes rude, days before Christmas. These people take a lot of abuse and might just need a reminder that someone cares—and that God has not forgotten them.

There are many ways to adopt a family or child at Christmas. Compassion International is a terrific agency you can sponsor a needy child through, in the name of Christ. Don’t limit yourself just to the community agencies, though. Think about anonymously giving to a family you know personally who is going through a hard time. Maybe they are facing a long-term illness or a job loss and you could be God’s hands and feet for them. Consider organizing a group of friends to buy food and gifts to make their Christmas surprisingly special this year.

Of course there are many ways to express the love Jesus came to share. As you experience that love, you can pass it along to all you come in contact with. Look for ways to show love to others, as that love will speak volumes to those who are lost and hurting. When their hearts are first softened by love, then they will want to know more about this Jesus. Make this Christmas the time you respond as the angels, the shepherds and the Wise Men did—by being intentional and passionate about sharing the good news of a Messiah who came to save the world.

Dear Lord, Please help me to share the good news of Jesus this year. Help me to act on the ideas You give to me and to not be inhibited by embarrassment, fear or self-consciousness. Help me to be bold for You, just as the angels and shepherds and Wise Men were. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Additional Resources:
Sponsor a child in need through Compassion International

For the Write Reason, Marybeth Whalen, General Editor

The ADVENTure of Christmas by Lisa Whelchel

Application Steps:
What does the Bible say about sharing the gospel? Spend some time today looking up scriptures about this. Brainstorm ideas of personal ways you can uniquely share the good news about Jesus.

Reflection Points:
Is there someone or something that has come to mind even as you have been reading this devotion? Write it down and take steps today to make it happen. Make a phone call, write a letter, pay a visit. How can you be bold for Him?

Power Verses:
Mark 16:15, “And He said to them, Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” (NASB)

Luke 2:10, “And the angel said unto them, Do not be afraid; for behold I bring you good news of a great joy which shall be for all the people.” (NASB)

Acts 2:39, “For the promise is for you and your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God shall call to Himself.” (NASB)

Labels: , , ,

Heavenly Peace on Earth
Tracie Miles

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27 (NIV)

Almost everyone likes to travel. The travel advertisements that bombard our lives every day make traveling look so enticing. Pictures of exotic hotels with pampering spa services, palm trees rustling on warm tropical beaches, and cruise ships sailing through the calm sea waters tempt us to book a trip. Those visions are not a reality if you are a business traveler, jumping from airport to airport, never smelling the salty air or feeling the warm Caribbean breezes.

A job I held for many years required me to do a lot of traveling. I have never considered air travel to be as pleasurable as the airline commercials suggest. After months of consecutive flying, I had gotten accustomed to repeated flight delays, stale pretzels, and cramped quarters with other people who were not enjoying the trials of travel either.

I had flown enough to lose the white knuckles and shortness of breath during every take off, landing or turbulence, and I began to enjoy the brief time I spent on the plane. Each time I boarded a plane, God tugged at my heart to spend time with Him, so I began carrying my Bible with me. It allowed me rare opportunities for meaningful quiet time, all alone, just God and me. (As an employee, wife, and mother of three, any quiet time at all was a pure miracle!)

There is something very special about hovering above the cotton clouds with the blinding sunshine and the warmth of its closeness on my face. The blue skies with subtle pink and yellow highlights make me feel so close to God, and near His heavens. It is easy to imagine how beautiful and peaceful heaven must be as the plane soars up there.

On some flights, when the plane dipped beneath the clouds to make its descent, I realized the day wasn’t as I had thought at all. It was dreary, clouds were black not white and it was gloomy with rain. Instantly I felt saddened, and oh how I wanted to leap back up where nature’s beauty had brought joy into my heart - where I was close to the heavens, and where peace was so easily obtained.

On one particular trip God shared His peace with me, and I recognized He had a specific reason for putting me into circumstances that don’t always seem enjoyable. That day, God reminded me that I should always feel close to Him, and bask in the warmth of His peace every day. He showed me that I don’t need to be 30,000 feet in the air to feel near to Him. He is as close as I want Him to be, and as close as I will allow Him to be, every second of every day.

When we’re faced with trials, God wants us to seek His guidance and rise above the problems through his strength, grace and mercy so that we can bask in the warmth of His peacefulness. Just as I wanted to steer the plane back up into the clouds to the peacefulness of the skies, God desires for us to steer our hearts towards Him and seek the warmth of His face upon ours.

During this Christmas season, take time to remember that Jesus is standing by your side everywhere you go – in the mall, at the grocery store, at a holiday gathering, and in your kitchen. When you begin to feel burdened by the busyness of the season, allow yourself to imagine you are soaring high above the clouds, basking in His warmth and feeling His love on your heart.

I was not able to steer the plane back into the skies when I wanted to return to the peacefulness above, but I could steer my heart back to God. You can too, anytime you choose. In this way we can have peace on earth as it is in heaven.

Lord, Please cleanse my soul and cover me with the peace that only you can provide. Help me remember that when I am facing trials or feeling discouraged, that I should look to the skies and see the beauty of Your face in the clouds. Renew my heart and mind so that I can maintain my joy everyday, knowing that I have eternal life in You and that You love me unconditionally. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Additional Resources:
P31 Woman Magazine

His Princess: Prayers to My King by Sherri Rose Shepherd

The Air I Breathe by Louie Giglio

Application Steps:
Pray today for God’s peace to encompass your heart. Pray for peace to surround you in your job, your home life, your marriage, your parental duties, your holidays, and every area of your life.

Power Verses:
Romans 5:1, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (NIV)

1 Corinthians 14:33, “For God is not a God of disorder, but of peace.” (NIV)

Psalm 103:11 “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him.” (NIV)

Labels: , ,

Celebrate the Holidays, Heaven’s Style
Ana Stine, She Speaks Graduate

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled...” John 14:27a (NIV)

Christmas time... A time of joy, harmony, and peace, or is it?

Years ago, instead of peace my home was filled with stress, rush, and fatigue. There never seemed to be enough time, money or energy to fulfill my expectations of what a “picture-perfect” Christmas celebration should be.

I remember one particular holiday season, I got this wonderful idea to kick our family celebrations up a notch. My children were no longer toddlers and I thought we were “ready for the challenge.” I had visions of all the things we could do. First, we would make our own Christmas cards, including a lovely family portrait. Next we would wrap our presents in style, and surely we would win the “best decorated house” neighborhood contest. Never tiring, we would make crafts, bake and decorate cookies for all of our family, friends and neighbors. Our home, a mini version of Christmas central, would be filled with all the sounds and all the aromas of Christmas. Peace, joy, and love would ooze from within...

Maybe the celebration would have gone better if I would’ve spent more time planning for it and less time daydreaming about it … or if I would have picked a few kid-friendly activities to enjoy instead of overwhelming my family with projects … and if my husband would not have lost his job right before Christmas!

I learned then that reality seldom matches my expectations, especially during the holidays. How can I be joyous, harmonious, peaceful, or even nice to my family during this busy and hectic season? I learned by painful experience that by simply doing a little homework before the “big test” comes you can preserve the true meaning of the season.

Let me share with you some practical pointers I’ve learned over the years, so that you and your family can enjoy the holidays “Heaven’s Style.”

Let go - Stuff in a big imaginary box all of your unrealistic or unattainable expectations for the holidays, and throw that box away!

Make a list - Gather your family to discuss the things you’d like to do during the holidays.

Check it twice - Calendar in hand, decide together what can realistically be done and jot it down on the family calendar or schedule. Decide ahead of time who will be in charge of, or helping with, each task.

Seek peace - Actively and diligently pursue those things that will guard the peace of your heart and home. Don’t allow yourself or your family to be so busy that you don’t have time to go to church, pray, or read your Bible during this time.

Remember - ‘tis the Season to celebrate! God the Father gave us the best gift in His Son. Let’s strive not to forget (nor let our families forget) what the most wonderful time of the year is all about.

Have a merry Christmas!

Dear Lord, Thank you for sending Your Son, Jesus, as a tiny baby, the greatest gift to mankind. Don’t let me forget what Christmas is truly about, and help me to prepare so that I can celebrate His birth in a way that is enjoyable, yet peaceful, both for my family and me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Additional Resources:
Homespun Gifts from the Heart by Karen Ehman

Breathe by Keri Wyatt Kent

Application Steps:

Before “the mad rush” takes hold, set aside time to pray and ask God to prepare your heart for the holidays, and to fill you, your family, and your home with His presence. Be especially careful not to neglect your relationship with the Lord - reflect on His beauty and goodness.

Reflection Points:
Study your heart - What does Christmas really mean to you?

How could you use this very special time to grow closer to God?

What can you do to preserve peace in your home, in the midst of all of the added activities the Holidays bring along?

Power Verses:

Proverbs 14:20a, “A heart at peace gives life to the body...” (NIV)

Romans 12:2, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (NIV)

1 Corinthians 2:12, “We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us.” (NIV)

2 Corinthians 1:12, “Now this is our boast: Our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially in our relations with you, in the holiness and sincerity that are from God. We have done so not according to worldly wisdom but according to God's grace.” (NIV)

Labels: , , ,

Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room
Bonita Lillie, She Speaks Graduate

“While she was there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in clothes and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. Luke 2:6-7 (NIV)

No room in the inn? As a former maternity nurse, I can’t imagine such a thing. No matter how full the hospital might be, we could always find one more bed for a woman giving birth. Yet, when our Savior was about to appear the world hung out a “no vacancy” sign, refusing to welcome Him. I could easily condemn those folks, except for the fact that I did the exact same thing one year.

It was one of those years, the kind loaded with heartache and trials, the kind we would rather forget. After a long arduous year, I found myself completely lacking in Christmas spirit. I didn’t want to decorate or get a tree; my daughter did those things. I wouldn’t bake cookies or sing carols. Even buying gifts didn’t arouse the usual thrill. I was numb. I really just wanted Christmas to come and go and be done with it.

One morning as I sat gazing at the Christmas tree I wondered why I felt this way. Gently, the Lord spoke to my heart, “You have no room in your heart for me.” I softly cried as one by one, the Lord revealed the ugly things filling up the chambers of my heart, keeping Christ at bay:

Busyness - Can’t we all relate to this one? Life can become so busy and crowded. That year I was a full time wife, full time mom, full time homemaker, full time homeschool teacher, part time nurse, part time writing instructor, and so much more. All of these things crowded in, crowding Jesus out. My life became one big “to do” list and I lived my list, by not my life.

Anger, bitterness, and disappointment - We experienced the kiss of Judas that year, as a dear friend betrayed us, resulting in a major financial setback. My trust in fellow Christians was shattered. Unfortunately, I closed the door to the trusting part of my heart, padlocked it, and refused to let anyone in, not even Jesus.

Pain and sorrow - Matthew 16:24 says: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” I learned what that meant that year as one by one I nailed my dreams to a cross and watched them die. Then I shut the door to the morgue and said, “No new dreams, Jesus.”

Doubt and unbelief - At some point, faith and hope packed up and left, leaving behind two unwelcome twins, doubt and unbelief. They are unpleasant guests as they constantly scream, “Will things ever get better?”

Selfishness and self-pity - I didn’t realize how much room I occupied in my heart until I had to exchange my will for they will. Ouch! Suddenly, life became all about preserving me, forget opening my heart to others.

That Christmas I served some eviction notices to those things in my heart that kept me from God. Now I want the Lord to fill not only a room of my heart, but the whole thing, every nook, cranny, and crevice.

How about you? Is there room in your inn for Jesus? He doesn’t require fancy accommodations. He’s just looking for the welcome mat. Let every heart prepare Him room!

Father, forgive me for becoming so entangled with the world that I miss out on You. Help me, Lord, to squarely face and submit to You the problems that keep me from enjoying Your wonderful presence. Fill my heart with Your life giving spirit. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Additional Resources:
Can Martha Have a Mary Christmas? by Brenda Poinsett

P31 Woman Magazine

The Tale of Three Trees retold by Angela Elwell Hunt

Application Steps:
It’s time for some housekeeping! Ask the Lord to reveal those things that clutter your heart and mind. Make a list of everything He reveals to you then pray about each thing on the list releasing it to God and letting it go. Give Jesus your whole heart this Christmas. You’ll be glad you did!

Reflection Points:
Is there anyone you need to forgive? Unforgiveness is a deadly poison that corrupts both heart and mind. Write down the names of anyone that has hurt or offended you and one by one give each person the gift of forgiveness this Christmas.

Power Verses:
Matthew 22:36-38, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

“Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. ‘” (NIV)

Proverbs 28:14, “Blessed is the man who always fears the Lord, but he who hardens his heart falls into trouble. (NIV)

Proverbs 4:23, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Tis the Season to Be …

Melissa Taylor

“I bring you good news of great joy for everyone! The Savior - yes, the Messiah, the Lord - has been born tonight in Bethlehem, the city of David!” Luke 2:10b-11 (NLT)

How do you feel about the fact that Christmas is quickly approaching? If asked, would you say:

  1. “There is too much to do and too little time to do it!”
  2. “I just don’t have the money this year to spend on gifts.”
  3. “If this is the season to be jolly, why do I feel so blue?”
  4. “I can’t wait to decorate. I love the Christmas tree, stockings, lights, and gifts!”
  5. “I love the excitement of the holiday, but most of all, I love to share the real reason for the season, Jesus’ birthday!”
  6. “The Christmas season brings me great peace and hope.”

I bet you can relate to at least one of those statements. I hope it’s either 5 or 6. If you are like me though, you start off with great intentions of keeping peacefully focused on Christ, but before you know it, you too get caught up in the busyness and craziness of Christmas.

Even if you haven’t bought a single gift or decked a single hall with holly, you can still find peace this month. The celebration of Jesus’ birthday should not bring stress and despair. That is not what it’s about at all.

Jesus was not born so that we would spin out of control, outdoing each other in December. It’s not about the gifts. It’s not about the lights. It’s not about Christmas cards and letters. It’s not even about all the food. Jesus’ birth represents “glory to God”, “peace on earth”, and “good news of great joy for everyone”, just like the Bible says (Luke 2 NLT). How do we get so caught up in all the other stuff while putting Jesus on the backburner? Is it because we know He’ll still be there later? Is it because we know He’ll forgive us?

If you find yourself behind this month with a lot to do, stop right now. Try to implement these simple steps for a more peaceful and stress free holiday:

  • Make a list. Write down all that you want to get done before Christmas. Make a schedule containing when and where and how you will get your tasks done. Stick to your schedule and if it doesn’t all fit in, then it’s too much. Cancel something.
  • Give yourself a break with Christmas cards. (Did I just say that? Yes, I did!) It’s okay if you don’t send them out this year or don’t send out as many. People are more understanding than you may think.
  • Play Christmas music throughout your house, car, and office. Make some hot cocoa or cider and sit by the fire or in a comfy chair. Make note of your blessings.
  • Focus on sharing the Christmas spirit with those you come in contact with each day. Your attitude during the Christmas season speaks volumes above any gift you could give.
  • Make a birthday cake for Jesus. Sing to Him and blow out the candles on Christmas day. My family loves to so this. As you are enjoying Jesus’ cake, consider gifts you could give to Him this year (your heart, your time, your service).
  • Most importantly, take time each day to give thanks to God for giving you the gift of His Child. Meditate on who Jesus is and what Christmas is really all about.

The reason for this season is Jesus…..that’s all. Make a choice this year to intentionally keep Him the center of your holiday.

Dear Lord, There is so much to do this month, but I know You want me to stay centered on Jesus. Help me to keep my eyes on You and celebrate Your birthday, Your life, and my life in You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Additional Resources:
Can Martha Have a Mary Christmas? by Brenda Poinsett

Celebrating a Christ-Centered Christmas by Sharon Jaynes

Do you know Him?

Application Steps:
Look over the steps in this devotion and apply some or all of them to your life this Christmas. Choose peace this year and let others know that you are choosing to focus on the real reason for the season. Ask them to join you!

Reflection Points:
What do your actions and words say about the way you celebrate Christmas?

Does Christmas mean peace or stress to you?

Have you chosen Jesus as your Lord and Savior?

Power Verses:
Luke 2:14, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to all whom God favors.” (NLT)

John 16:33, "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." (NIV)

Philippians 4:6-7, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” (NLT)

Labels: , , ,

My Heart, the Lord’s Stable
Van Walton

“Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him…” Ephesians 3:17 (NLT)

Before my children were born, early when we were a family of two, my husband and I began a Christmas tradition. Late in November, Christmas came to our house in the form of a prominent nativity scene that decorated our mantle.

Each season I reverently place the Christmas characters on my mantel, locating shepherds, wise men, and angles, carefully facing them toward the focal point – the empty manger, the bed of hay and straw. In our house we traditionally waited until Christmas Eve to introduce the Christ child into the crèche displayed in the middle of our house.

One year, while arranging the nativity, I engaged my sons. They took turns choosing where each piece – a character, an animal, or a star – should be strategically located. At last we pulled the little manger from its storage place.

“Where is Jesus?” Aaron asked. “He belongs in this crib.” After much discussion and explanation I convinced the boys that Christmas is as much about waiting and preparing for Jesus as it is celebrating His birth.

“But it makes me sad to look into the stable and see an empty manger! I want to see Jesus.” Benjamin expressed his conflicting thoughts. We had a dilemma on our hands.

I retrieved the tiny wooden carving – a sweet little replica of an animal’s feed trough. Grabbing a red marker, I drew a heart in the “crib.”

“There,” I said. “Each time you look into the stable and see an empty manger, let the heart remind you to make room in your heart for Jesus. This year give Jesus a special gift. Let others see Jesus in you!”

I used this moment to teach my sons an object lesson. “Jesus was born in a stable. Really, though, He came for you.” I gently placed my finger on each little boy’s heart. “He wants to be born in your life. Your heart is like this stable. Can you let Him live in you? Why not remember each time you look at this nativity scene, “my heart is Jesus’ stable.”

Do you know what a life whose heart is filled with Jesus looks like? It is a life that is stable: one that is satisfied with His will, living in truth, always adoring the Lord, believing in God’s promises, longing for relationship with Him, and empowered by His spirit.

It’s the life of a person who is SATISFIED: Certainly, Mary would have chosen a better place for her child and the King of Kings, but she was satisfied with God’s design.

It’s the life of a person who knows and lives the TRUTH: Certainly, Joseph’s desired to put Mary away, except that the truth of Jesus needed to be shared.

It’s the life of a person who obviously ADORES God: Certainly, the shepherds were fearful, but they obeyed God’s call to leave their objects of purpose and income, objects of adoration – their lambs. They obeyed God’s urging to find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes. Leaving their lambs, shepherds fell down in adoration when they found the Lamb of God.

It’s the life of a person who BELIEVES God: Certainly, the Magi dreaded the long trip, but they believed in God’s power to provide a new King.

It’s the life of a person who LONGS for a relationship with God: Certainly, God’s children here on earth want to be filled with that which the world has to offer, but when we long for Jesus to fill our every yearning, everything else falls into its proper place.

It’s the life of a person EMPOWERED by the Holy Spirit: Certainly, we are weak, but God is strong. When He steps into our hearts He brings “all his glorious, unlimited resources to empower us with inner strength, through his spirit.” (Ephesians 3:16, my paraphrase)

When you look into your heart do you find it empty? This season invite Jesus to fill your life. Determine to allow the living God to be your focal point. Merry Christmas!

Lord Jesus, without You there would be no Christmas. Today I want to dedicate this season to You. Every day I will remember that You are the reason we celebrate. It is Your birthday. Had you remained in heaven, I would still be lost, without purpose, without a future or hope, without joy. Thank you for giving Your life that I might live. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Additional Resources::
Who Holds the Key to Your Heart? by Lysa TerKeurst

Celebrating a Christ-Centered Christmas by Sharon Jaynes

The ADVENTure of Christmas by Lisa Whelchel

Application Steps:

Without making it another exhausting chore, determine to bring Jesus into your Christmas. Replace the frenzy of holiday preparation by pondering His intentions for coming to earth. Keep Christ in Christmas.

Reflection Points:
Where does Jesus fit into my Christmas celebration?

Do I celebrate Christmas with Jesus in mind or is it merely a secular holiday for me?

How can I make Christmas a Christ honoring celebration?

Power Verses:
John 14: 23, “Jesus answered him, ‘If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.’ ” (ESV)

Hebrews 13:5, “Don’t love money; be satisfied with what you have. For God has said, ‘I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.’ ” (NLT)

Colossians 2:7, “Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.” (NLT)

Labels: , , , ,

A Cup of Christmas COCOA
Tracie Miles

“On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. Matthew 2:11 (NIV)

One of the things I adore about the holiday season is hot cocoa. Who doesn’t feel warm and snuggly while sipping on a steaming cup of cocoa with marshmallows or whip cream piled on top? The word ‘COCOA’ can be used to help us remember the important aspects of Christmas, reminding us of the happiness and warmth we can enjoy being a part of God’s family.

Matthew 1:18 This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ is the reason for the season. Remember to spend as much time searching for God’s truth, as you do searching for that perfect gift. Christ IS Christmas – there is no Christmas without Christ. During this season, share the gift that Christ has given you with someone else.

1 Peter 3:3 Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. Do you spend more time fretting over whether or not your house could be featured in the holiday edition of Southern Living, than whether or not your inner spirit is adorned with God’s love and compassion for those in need? Put a stronger focus on blessing others this holiday season.

Proverbs 15:13 A happy heart makes a face look cheerful. But a sad heart produces a broken spirit. As the gift list grows, the budget drains, and the calendar fills, it is easy to get discouraged. And although Christmas is meant to be a joyous season, many people also struggle during the holidays with depression and discouragement. Despite the reasons that you might feel discouraged during this time of year, focus on how much you are loved as a dear and precious child of God. The holidays are merely a season, but God’s love and compassion for His children is permanent. Now that is something to celebrate!

Matthew 2:10 –12 The shepherds saw the star, and they were overjoyed – they were overcome with delight, awe, motivation, encouragement, love for God – they were overwhelmed with the gift of life. Think of a time when you were overjoyed- the birth of a child, a graduation, a wedding, a beautiful sunrise, sparkling white beaches, a baptism. Your feeling of happiness was likely so overwhelming, that tears filled your eyes, you had a lump in your throat, or your heart was beating rapidly. For many Christmas-a-holics, we are overjoyed when we kick off the holiday season, but overwhelmed by the middle of the month! Try to find ways to remind yourself each day of December to be thankful for the birth of our Savior and overwhelmed by the blessings that have been bestowed upon you, rather than being overwhelmed with your holiday to-do lists or personal issues.

Jude :2 ..mercy, peace and love be yours in abundance. Whenever I think of Christmas morning, from my childhood to the present, the word ABUNDANCE comes to mind. As soon as the sun rises on December 25th, until it sets in the evening, we are bombarded with an abundance of presents, candy, baked goods, fruit, and other delectable foods. But these things are temporary. What we really yearn for is the abundant life promised to us in God’s word. Our true heart’s desire is for mercy, peace and love, not just on Christmas day, but every day throughout each year.

The next time you are in the mood for a hot cup of steaming cocoa, I pray that you will be reminded of this devotion. As the warmth of the cocoa trickles down your throat, allow the warmth of God’s love to pour into your heart, and then pour that love out abundantly onto others.

Dear Lord, thank You for giving us the gift of Your son, so that we could have eternal life with You. Please help us not to get so caught up in the earthly celebrations of Christmas that we forget to celebrate Christ. Grant us joy and peace this season and into the future. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Additional Resources:
The ADVENTure of Christmas by Lisa Whelchel

P31 Woman Magazine

Listen to Today’s Radio Show

Application Steps:

Determine how you will honor Christ this Christmas and make your schedule accordingly.

Reflection Points:
Do I spend more time and effort on decorating my home, or my heart?

Is my family focused on seasonal abundance, or spiritual abundance?

What can I do to help my family and others remember Christ as the center of this season?

Power Verses:
Hebrews 4:16, “So let us boldly approach the throne of grace. Then we will receive mercy. We will find grace to help us when we need it.” (NIV)

Psalm 136:2, “Give thanks to the God of gods, His love endures forever.” (NIV)

Number 6:25-26, “The Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.” (NIV)

Labels: , , ,

The Rich Home
Sharon Glasgow

"Now when the queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon concerning the name of the Lord, she came to test him with hard questions.” I Kings 10:1 (NKJ)

The Queen of Sheba was rich and beautiful. She had everything a queen could want - gold, silver, ivory, precious jewels and servants taking care of her every need in the palace. What more could a woman want?

She heard about the fame of Solomon concerning the Name of the Lord. Even though her people had many gods to worship, none penetrated her heart as the name of the Lord God of Israel. Her heart was so moved by His name that she decided to take a 1,400 mile trip across the desert sands of Arabia to visit this man who knew this God personally.

The trip would take her approximately six months each way with camels being able to travel around 20 miles a day. She took a great caravan of servants, loads of spices, gold and unusual wood to give as gifts. Her heart and soul longed for riches that she did not have, and she sensed they would be discovered through Solomon. Finally, she arrived. It was the grandest palace she had ever laid eyes on. But her purpose wasn’t to see the most beautiful archeological place ever built, it was to find a secret treasure.

The secret entrance to the wisdom of the One and only God of the Universe would be worth a year of travel. She talked to Solomon for hours, asking him deep questions about God. She was exhausted, but satisfied by his answers. She found what she had longed for and she said, “Blessed be the Name of Lord.”

Jesus mentions the Queen of Sheba in Matthew 12:42. He honors her desire for His wisdom. The Queen of Sheba took great pains and trouble to find wisdom, yet the wisdom available to her at that time was the lesser wisdom of a man. The wisdom we have access to through Jesus far out shines that of Solomon. If the Queen of Sheba would travel six months to find truth, how much more should we search for wisdom by opening our hearts to Him who freely gives wisdom, truth and the secrets of His heart?

When people travel to our home it is not the seasonal décor or the cleanliness that will ultimately impress our visitors. It is not the perfectly sculpted yard or the new car in the garage. It’s the pearl of spiritual insight that they will be drawn to through the Holy Spirit living through you. They will be full and satisfied when they have departed, and the richness of the visit will live on forever when you impart to them the riches God has placed in your heart.

Your home is where your heart is. Ask God for wisdom. Spend time getting to know Him and you will not only be spiritually rich, but those who enter your home will find treasures that people have traveled the whole earth in search of.

Dear Lord, I want every person who walks into my home to find the riches that only You can deliver. Help me to be a conduit for You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Additional Resources:
The Tale of Three Trees retold by Angela Elwell Hunt

Pierced By the Word: 31 Meditations for Your Soul by John Piper

Can Martha Have a Mary Christmas? by Brenda Poinsett

Application Steps:
God freely gives spiritual wisdom to those who ask and seek it with all their heart. Seek God’s wisdom through prayer and the Bible. Ask Him to help you remember all that you learn from Him and to live it all the time.

Reflection Points:
Do you spend more time fussing over the outward beauty of your home than the inward beauty of your soul?

Can you recall time spent in the home of a godly person? Do you remember the richness you felt there?

Can you remember entering the home of a wealthy person only to find it empty of true treasures of the heart?

Power Verses:
Isaiah 60:13, ”. . .Beautify the place of my sanctuary. . .” (NKJ)

I Corinthians 3:12, “If anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is, if any one’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward.” (NKJ)

Labels: , , ,

When our Bellies Scrape the Ground
Glynnis Whitwer

"But Jesus immediately said to them, ‘Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.’" Matthew 14:27(NIV)

Have you ever wondered why God sometimes allows us to get to a crisis stage before He steps in to help? At times, it seems disaster lurks around the corner before God answers our prayers for help. Why does He wait? We don’t always understand, but perhaps, God is waiting for us to learn for ourselves just how desperately we need Him.

I recently read an article in Time Magazine about how planes have to land at Saddam Hussein airport in Baghdad. Because of snipers, airplanes have to stay high for as long as possible. This basically disallows a gradual descent. Here’s how the author, Aparisim Ghosh, describes the landing:

"To avoid being shot down by Iraqi insurgents, the pilot must stay at 30,000 feet until the plane is directly over Baghdad airport, then bank into a spiraling dive, straightening up just yards from the runway. If you're looking out the window, it can feel as if the plane is in a free fall from which it can't possibly pull out."

The author went on to describe how first-timers, and even veteran fliers, react to what seems like sure death. Some scream - to which the flight attendants recommend a brisk slap across the face. In addition to that, almost everyone starts to pray to someone or something. Even after many flights to Baghdad, this battle-wise journalist went on to explain that in those moments of descent, even he started praying to anything or anyone who would listen. He writes, "In Iraq, you want to have God - anybody's God - within easy reach."

Most of us will do anything to avoid a near-crash landing like that. We want a sense of control over our situations, and try to manage our environments to eliminate risk. The problem with that is we can get so comfortable that we deceive ourselves into thinking that our security, safety and well-being, and that of our loved ones, are actually in our hands.

Then along comes something completely out of our control. Perhaps it’s an auto accident, our child gets hurt or we lose our job. We are faced with our limited control and can get to the end of ourselves. We can feel like those first-time flyers about to scrape their bellies along the runway. When that happens, we can either turn from God, angry that He allowed this situation in our lives, or we can turn to God and cry out for help. We may never know why some things happen in life – what we do know is that God will use every experience to draw us closer to Him.

In Matthew chapter 14, there’s a story of when Jesus sent His disciples ahead of Him in a boat. The first miracle in the story is that Jesus walked on water to catch up with His friends. We also learn a lesson from this story when we think about why Jesus would have sent His disciples into a storm. Jesus knew the wind and waves were fierce, yet He allowed His friends to get in the middle of it. Even as the storm raged on, Jesus came to the boat, tested their faith, and then calmed the storm. Verse 33 says, "Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’"

Perhaps God uses free-falls and storms to drive us straight into His arms. Sometimes it’s the quickest way to move our faith from a head knowledge to a heart knowledge. Then, like the disciples, we too can glorify God for what He has done and worship Him.

Heavenly Father, I know that nothing is out of Your control. Forgive me for thinking that I am in ultimate control of things. I thank You for being an ever-present source of help and strength in the middle of my own crisis situations. Help me to rely on You more and I will give You the glory. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Additional Resources:
What Happens When Women Walk in Faith by Lysa TerKeurst

When You're Running on Empty, Hope and Help for the Over-Scheduled Woman by Cindi McMenamin

P31 Woman Magazine

Application Steps:
List five characteristics of God, or truths that you know about Him, that can help bring you comfort the next time you are in a crisis.

Reflection Points:
Read Matthew 14:22-32. The disciples are far from help in the middle of the lake. What is the first miracle that Jesus performs in this story?

What message might the disciples have received from this miracle?

After Peter’s attempt to get to Jesus, what is the second miracle that Jesus performs?

What do you think the disciples learned that night?

What can we learn about how God works in our own difficult situations from this passage?

Power Verses:
Psalm 118:13-14, "I was pushed back and about to fall, but the Lord helped me. The Lord is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation." (NIV)

Psalm 91:14, "‘Because he loves me,’ says the Lord, I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.’" (NIV)

Jonah 2:1-2, "From inside the fish, Jonah prayed to the Lord his God. He said, ‘In my distress I called to the Lord, and He answered me. From the depths of the grave I called for help and you listened to my cry.’" (NIV)


Do You Know This Jesus?
Marybeth Whalen

“For today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:11 (NAS)

Every year when Christmas rolls around, we are exposed to countless retellings of the birth of Jesus. The story is told in hundreds of ways—animation and video, acted out and sung in harmony. Is there a chance that the abundance of information can make us immune to the story itself? Is it possible that we become so familiar with the story of Jesus that we lose sight of the One we are celebrating?

This year, I want to use this time to focus on Jesus. I want to be intentional about seeing the Christmas story for what it is—the gospel unfolded. The angel announced to the shepherds that the Messiah had come. He identified Jesus in three ways—as Savior, Christ, and Lord. Savior means Messiah, which is Hebrew for “Anointed One”. Christ is the Greek term for “Anointed One.” And Lord means Yahweh, or God. What do these names tell us about Jesus? They tell us that He was both God and man. He was prophecy fulfilled, to the letter, and that He came, just as God promised.

So what does that mean to us so many years after this announcement was made from the skies? How should we respond? For me it means that Christmas is the time to learn more about who Jesus is. It is our time to get in touch with what those names mean to us personally. It is an opportunity to read the account of His birth, His life, His death and resurrection with new eyes. We need to see Him anew this Christmas.

Jesus was a contradiction in terms. He was complex and went against the conventions of His times. He challenged the religious types. He was so much more than a simple Bible story. He is worth getting to know on a deep intimate level because the things He will reveal to you are so much more than you expect. I love the following poem and what it shows about Jesus. I want to dig deeply into what this poem says. I also want to dig deeply into the character of my Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

The Paradox by Virginia Knowles

Come, see where He lays
Good Shepherd and Little Lamb
King of Kings and Servant of All
Prophet and Prophecy Fulfilled
Physician and Wounded One
High Priest and Atoning Sacrifice
Counselor and Rejected One
Builder and Foundation Stone
Righteous Judge and Condemned Prisoner
Ancient of Days and newly born babe
God and Man
Do you know this Jesus?

Dear Lord, I love You and I want to know You more. This Christmas, and into the new year, help me to explore the deep meaning of who You are. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Additional Resources:
P31 Woman Magazine

Do you know Him?

Celebrating a Christ-Centered Christmas by Sharon Jaynes

Application Steps:
Write down the names of Jesus that are mentioned in the poem and use these names as a springboard for a personal Bible study. Do word studies on these names and find out what the Scriptures have to say about each one.

Reflection Points:
How well do you know Jesus? You could spend the rest of your life studying His life, yet never know enough about this paradox of a person. Think about how you can get to know Him better so that you won’t lose sight of how truly awesome He is.

Power Verses:
Matthew 2:6, “But you Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.” Translation

Isaiah 40:3, “A voice of one calling: In the desert prepare the way for the Lord, make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God.”

John 1:10, “He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own but his own did not receive him.” Translation

Labels: , ,

Finding Father
Van Walton

“The Lord has made the heavens his throne; from there he rules over everything.” Psalm 103:19 (NLT)

Recently I spent a long weekend with my brother-in-law and his four children. We packed three days with fun activities: eating out at great restaurants, attending football games, and boating on the lake. Our time together taught me a lesson about God.

Three adults and the youngest child all arrived at the football field together. Immediately my nephew ran off to find his friends. His sisters, one a graduate, one a cheerleader, and one a member of the flag corps, had pre-game responsibilities and were nowhere to be seen, especially given the size of the frenzied crowd.

My husband and I followed Bob as he meandered through groups of friendly fans. We climbed the bleachers, found a space for three, and sat down. Rapidly the seats filled in around us. In front of us cheerleaders somersaulted, cart-wheeled, jumped in the air, and encouraged the players toward victory. Beside us, the band led the crowd in chant and song. The evening’s enthusiasm grew to a crescendo. Fans blended into one loud body, sharing heart and soul with their beloved high school athletes. At this event no individuals stood out. We were one in spirit, blended into one giant cheer.

I wondered, “How will Bob’s kids find us?” They had promised to stop by sometime during the game. Half-time festivities came and went. Spaces around us opened up as hungry spectators left for concession stands. Then one by one my nephew and his sisters showed up. Thomas threw himself at his dad and an arm wrapped around his shoulder. Lizzie, tall and athletic, bounded up the steps two by two and plopped herself onto daddy’s lap. His smile said it all. “I love you. You’re mine. I’m always here for you!” Happy to have his daughter so near, he gave her his complete attention. In like manner Carolyn and sister, Mary, appeared. Each time, their dad offered undivided focus. Of course the children had motives and agendas for finding their father. One needed money. The other requested permission to go out after the game. The youngest sought solace after having been taunted by bullies. His sister longed for words of encouragement. She had forgotten her routine, lost her way, and dropped the flag!

Eventually each child pulled away from daddy. One by one smiles appeared and off they ran, returning to their worlds of play and responsibility. I turned to my brother-in-law. “How, in the midst of this monster crowd, did all four children find you?”

“Oh,” he replied and smiled warmly. “I am always right here. Believe me, they know where to find their father.”

My nieces and nephew are not alone. We all have a Father, Almighty God, who sits on His throne in heaven, ever present, never changing, and always available to give us what we need: a daily provision, a comforting word, encouragement to persevere, or balm for broken hearts.

Like the children in the stories of Jesus, these young teens led me to a realization, forcing me to ask myself, “Do I know where to find my Father?” Do you?

Dear Lord, Never let me forget where You are. Keep me ever mindful that I can come to You whenever I need You. Thank You for being always faithful. I am amazed at Your love for me, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Additional Resources:
P31 Woman Magazine

Who Holds the Key to Your Heart? by Lysa TerKeurst

Becoming a Woman Who Listens to God by Sharon Jaynes

Application Steps:

God’s nature is not only to be Father to His children, but to teach us how to parent. Commit to becoming closely acquainted with your heavenly Father, searching His ways in order to perfect your skills as the nurturer of your own children.

Reflection Points:
How well do I know God?

Do I know where to find God?

Do I believe God is always available to take me into His care and generously give me what I need and, even sometimes, what I desire?

Power Verses:
Proverbs 8:17, “I love those who love me, and those who seek me find me.” (NIV)

Jeremiah 29:13, “You will seek me and find me. When you seek me with all your heart…” (ESV)

Acts 17:24-28, “The God who made the world and everything in it, this Master of sky and land, doesn't live in custom-made shrines or need the human race to run errands for him, as if he couldn't take care of himself. He makes the creatures; the creatures don't make him. Starting from scratch, he made the entire human race and made the earth hospitable, with plenty of time and space for living so we could seek after God, and not just grope around in the dark but actually find him. He doesn't play hide-and-seek with us. He's not remote; he's near.” (MSG)

Labels: ,

Site Search
Recent Devotions
Articles About...
Grab our button!