The Gift of Peace
Susanne Scheppman

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

I fidgeted as I waited for the receptionist to acknowledge me. She hung up the phone and smiled. "Are you here to see Kurt for a radio interview?"

I nodded and shuffled my feet a bit more.

"Just have a seat on the couch. He'll be with you in a minute."

I sat on the couch. The tension in my body made me straight and prim. I thumbed through my notes and glanced around the radio studio. Then, out of the corner of my eye, a rapid movement drew my attention. A spider—a huge spider—pranced along the arm of the sofa. I caught my breath and scooted away. A different type of tenseness surged through me.

The startled receptionist looked up, questioning. I pointed to the object of my fear. Her eyes widened, and then with the bravery of a heroine she lunged toward it with a rolled newspaper in her hand. She stopped and said, "I can't do it. It's too big."

Just then Kurt, the radio host, appeared. He spotted our crisis. However, unlike the two of us, he strode to the sofa, grabbed the cushion, carried it to the door and flicked the spider to a new outdoor home. "Man, that was a big one! Welcome! Let's do the interview."

Later, I pondered my morning's fear. I considered my nervousness about the interview. I re-lived my terror of the spider. In reality, neither was worthy of my anxiety. Neither could have caused me bodily harm. (That is, unless I had passed out and cracked my head open.) Often my fears are unwarranted. I allow ordinary circumstances to rob me of my peace. I forget the promise of Jesus, "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).

Christ came to earth to redeem us and grant us peace. "Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine" (Isaiah 43:1, NIV). My tendency is to fear scary bugs, failure and the unknown future. But, I shouldn't. Jesus offers me the gift of peace—I just need to remember to claim it for my own each day. His peace has my name on the gift tag.

His gift of peace has your name on it too.

Dear Lord, teach me to remember each day that Your peace is my peace. I thank you that You came to earth to redeem me and that I have no need to fear. Help me claim Your peace each morning before I begin the day. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources
Perplexing Proverbs by Susanne Scheppmann

Thank-FULL, Fear-LESS message on CD by Lysa TerKeurst

Visit Susanne's Blog

work@home: A Practical Guide for Women Who Want to Work from Home by Glynnis Whitwer

Application Steps
Read the Power Verses below. Commit to memory one or more of the verses that speak peace to your heart.

What do I fear?

Why do I fear?

How can I replace my fear with the gift of Jesus' peace?

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)

Numbers 6:26, "The Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace." (NIV)

2 Corinthians 1:2, "Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." (NIV)

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Honoring God with Your Life
Marybeth Whalen

“It never occurs to them to say, ‘How can we honor our God with our lives, the God who gives rain in both spring and autumn and maintains the rhythm of the seasons.” Jeremiah 5:24 (NIV)

Last night God brought a little boy to my mind. This little boy is nothing special. He has never been on the front page of a newspaper or achieved a world record. No one recognizes his name; he isn’t a celebrity by the world’s standards. And yet, he was on my mind last night, though I’ve never met him personally. I just know about him because I read something his mother wrote years ago.

At about eight years-old, he felt burdened to start a cookie ministry for elderly people, new neighbors, and others in his life. And so, each week this little boy would make a big batch of Snickerdoodle cookies (I still remember what kind because they sounded so good), divide them into packages, pile them in his wagon and deliver them to whoever was on his list for that week. He would visit with the people and sometimes share a verse or prayer with them and be on his way. Some people heard about what he was doing and donated money to pay for the ingredients in his cookies, and he enjoyed having his very own ministry at a young age.

It has been many years since I read that, and I imagine that little boy is a young man now. I don’t have any idea what he is doing, but something tells me that he is still finding creative ways to honor God with his life. As I thought of him last night, I was struck by how flimsy my excuses must sound for not being more purposeful about ministering to others. What keeps me from reaching out to those around me—the hurting, the grieving, the sick, or the hopeless? What makes me shrug my shoulders and walk away? Why does a little boy’s cookie ministry matter? Because he used what he had and he did what he could. And I know I could stand to do the same.
We are supposed to honor God with our lives. And yet, we have a million reasons for not doing so. Money, time, and resource constraints are popular excuses—and yet, this little boy was bound by the same things. I know that even if I just bake a loaf of banana bread and take it to someone that God puts on my heart, then that is honoring God with my life. Sometimes it is in the simplest of acts that we make the biggest impact. Instead of making excuses and leaving ministry to other people, I can set out to do what I can with what I have.

Many years later this young man’s cookie ministry has served to inspire a busy woman to honor God with her life. He has no idea how impacting his example was on me. I hope he has inspired you as well.

Dear Lord, help me to act on the things You lay on my heart and not make excuses or feel silly or inadequate. Help me to see the bigger picture in the little things You call us to do. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources
Becoming a Woman of Influence, message by Marybeth Whalen

Five-Star Families: Moving Yours from Good to Great by Carol Kuykendall

Visit Marybeth’s Blog

Application Steps
What is God laying on your heart? Have you taken action or are you making excuses. Write down some actions steps you need to take today.

How has God made Himself known to you through others? How can you do the same?

What does it mean to you to honor God with your life?

Power Verses
Proverbs 14:31, “He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.” (NIV)

Matthew 10:42, “And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward.” (NIV)

Acts 10:4, “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.” (NIV)

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Angels on the Lookout
Glynnis Whitwer

"For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; ..." Psalm 91:11(NIV)

I woke up at 4 a.m. on a Saturday. No noise disturbed my sleep. No dog licked my faced. I just woke up. There was no prompting to do anything special, so I just got up and started my day early. Around 2 p.m. I started to fade, and stopped to rest on the couch. My son Robbie snuggled up next to me and we enjoyed a few moments together.

To explain my exhaustion, I mentioned to Robbie how early I'd awakened.

"That's weird, Mom," Robbie said. I woke up at 4 o'clock too."

"Why didn't you come downstairs?" I asked. "We could have spent the early morning together."

He got very still and silent, with an odd look on his face. "I was afraid to get up," he replied. I looked fully at Robbie and asked what had frightened him. "I thought I saw a man sitting in the chair beside my bed," Robbie answered sheepishly, a little embarrassed in the daylight of what had scared him in the dark.

In a moment of divine revelation, and without a pause, I responded, "Robbie, I'm not surprised you saw someone sitting by your bed at night. I've been praying for angels to protect you every day. And since you were a baby, I've prayed for God to send His biggest, strongest angels to watch over you and your brothers. Robbie, I think you got to see an angel this morning."

Relief flooded his features and together we grinned in delight at what God had allowed Robbie to see. Emboldened by my belief in his story and in God's protection, Robbie proceeded to share another sighting -- one that involved what looked like a man dressed in battle fatigues and on guard at the back window. He told me he hadn't said anything before because he thought people would make fun of him.

I told Robbie that for generations, angels had scared almost everyone who saw them. Who wouldn't be afraid at someone appearing where he shouldn't be? Just look at the Christmas story. Zechariah was "gripped with fear" when the angel Gabriel appeared to tell him he would be the father of John the Baptist -- the prophet who would tell about Jesus. Mary was told to "not be afraid" by the angel who told her she would bear a child. The shepherds were "terrified" when they saw an angel and heard of the birth of their Savior Jesus.

Heavenly messengers, our protectors, and worshippers of God -- angels have many roles. The Bible says they are created beings (Hebrews 7:7) and that we have probably seen and entertained angels without realizing it (Hebrews 13:2). But the Biblical description of angels that brings me the most personal comfort is that of protector. Psalm 91 speaks of God's care for us in this manner, "For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone" (Psalm 91: 11-12).

As Christmas ends and I prepare for the New Year, I thank God for angels. Just as they appeared to Zechariah, Mary, the shepherds and others, they still appear today. In fact, I believe they appeared to a 12-year-old boy at the response of his mother's prayers for that boy's protection. Miracles still happen!

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You so much for answering my prayers for protection. Thank You for loving us so much that You command Your angels to watch over us. Help me be more aware of Your work in this world -- through what I can see and what I can't see. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Him?

Worship: Nearing the Heart of God by Brian T. Anderson & Glynnis Whitwer

The Air I Breathe by Louie Giglio

Visit Glynnis' Blog

Application Steps:
Using a Bible concordance, look up 5-10 references to angels. Write down their biblical characteristics. Compare that list to some popular beliefs about angels. (A concordance organizes Scripture verses by topic and words found in the verse. Several websites offer free concordances. My favorite is located at

Read Psalm 91. What does it mean to dwell in the shelter of the Most High?

What does the psalmist say God will protect us from?

Have you ever known that God was with you in a time of trouble? How did God reveal Himself to you at that time?

Power Verses:
Luke 1:27b-28, "The virgin's name was Mary. The angel went to her and said 'Greetings, you who are highly favored. The Lord is with you." (NIV)

Psalm 34:7, "The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them." (NIV)

Exodus 23:20, "See, I am sending an angel ahead of you to guard you along the way and to bring you to the place I have prepared." (NIV)

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Crossed "I-ed"
Wendy Pope

“God said to Moses, ‘I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: 'I AM has sent me to you.'" Exodus 3:14 (NIV)

I love the title of today’s devotion. Unfortunately, I cannot claim it. The credit goes to pastor and author, Dr. David Jeremiah. The reason I love it is because I easily get “cross I’ed” by focusing on what I cannot do instead of depending on the great I AM.

One of God’s chosen leaders, Moses, also got “cross I’ed” at times. Exodus 3 is a dialogue between God and Moses. Moses is passionately and whole-heartedly trying to convince God that he is not the right person to speak to Pharaoh about freeing the Israelites. Moses was thinking of every excuse of why he was not the right person for the job. He did not realize that God had prepared the way. Let me paraphrase the conversation.

God assures Moses that He will be with him. Moses says, "What will I say to them when they ask, ‘Who sends you?’" God gives Moses an answer that was probably a bit confusing. "Tell them I AM has sent you."

Don't you know Moses was very grateful for a response but probably wanted to say, "OK, what do I say when they ask, 'Who is I AM?'" (Exodus 3:12-14).

I love this dialogue between God and Moses because it sounds like many conversations I have with the Lord. I give excuses of why "I" can't do something He has asked me to do, not ever stopping to think that He has already prepared the way. I remember saying “Lord, I can’t speak. What will I say?” He replied, “Open your mouth and I will fill it.”

Another time I said, “I am too tired to get up each morning to have a quiet time with you.” He tenderly said, “I give sleep to those I love.” Even recently I cried out, “Please pass this cup. I am not strong enough, Lord.” He responded by asking me if I trusted Him with all that I had. I replied with trembling, “Yes Lord, I do.”

I continue to learn as Moses did, that I am not and I can’t, but God is and He can. I recently read an amazingly powerful book by Louie Giglio, i am not but i know I AM. Notice the only letters in the title that are capitalized are I AM. Boy, when I figured out the significance of that phrase, my life changed. I am just a little "i." Let Louie tell you about it:

"God was telling Moses:
I AM the center of everything.

I AM running the show.

I AM the same every day, forever.

I AM the owner of everything.

I AM the Lord.

I AM the Creator and Sustainer of life.

I AM the Savior.

I AM enough.

I AM inexhaustible and immeasurable.

I AM God.

In a heartbeat, Moses knew God's name - and something more. He finally knew his. For if God's name is I AM, Moses' name must be ‘i am not.’”

I think the sooner we grasp the little "i" concept and live it out loud, the sooner we will make a difference in this world. Think about it.

Dear Lord, thank You for being the Great I AM. Will You help me remember that I am a little "i?" The story is about You and You graciously invite me to participate. Thank You for the invitation. Today I want to make You famous. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources
Do You Know Him?

i am not but i know I AM by Louie Giglio

Visit Wendy’s blog

Living Free in Christ message on CD taught by Wendy Pope

Application Steps
Determine what your spiritual gifts are by taking a spiritual gifts inventory. Begin to pray and ask God how and where you could join Him at work. A simple and free online spiritual gift inventory is available at here.

What excuses do I usually give the Lord when He asks me to do something?

Am I willing to lay my rights on the altar of sacrifice?

What talents has God given me? How am I using them for His kingdom?

Power Verses:
Psalm 36:5, “Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies.” (NIV)

Jeremiah 29:11, "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." (NIV)

Jeremiah 29:13, "You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." (NIV)

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The Gift Giver
Rachel Olsen

“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." Luke 6:38 (NIV)

This morning I’ll watch with joyful anticipation as my family opens the gifts that I’ve given them. I can’t wait to see their faces light up with surprised pleasure and gratefulness. In moments like these I understand why Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35, NIV).

A few years ago my daughter reached an age where she could find the hidden stash of unwrapped presents if she really tried. So I warned her that if she peeked, and I found out about it, I would return those presents to the store and she would not receive them. Sounds a bit harsh I know, but I really wanted her to learn some important lessons: to exercise self-control and delayed gratification, and to respect the act of giving by not robbing me of the pleasure of seeing her open her presents for the first time. I wanted her to know that giving and receiving are irreversibly linked – and that expressions of thankfulness are part of it.

It’s essential for God’s children to respect the act of giving as well as receiving - He calls us to live a life of both. I also believe it can help us better understand God’s core nature and our relationship with Him. God is a gift-giver! And He always knows the exact perfect gift to give. “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17, NIV).

Let’s unwrap today some of the awesome gifts He has given us …

He’s given us physical life: “The Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” Genesis 2:7 (NIV)

And eternal life: “"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 (NIV)

He’s given us family: “God sets the lonely in families …” Psalm 68:6 (NIV)

He’s given us wisdom: “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.” James 1:5 (NIV)

He’s given us peace: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.” John 14:27 (NIV)

He’s given us joy: “You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.” 1 Thessalonians 1:6 (NIV)

He’s given us rest: “Then Jesus said, ‘Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.’” Matthew 11:28 (NIV)

He’s given us a personal counselor: “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor, who will never leave you.” John 14:16 (NIV)

He’s given us an inheritance: “…you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.” Colossians 3:24 (NIV)

And He’s given us freedom: “God alone made it possible for you to be in Christ Jesus. For our benefit God made Christ to be wisdom itself. He is the one who made us acceptable to God. He made us pure and holy, and he gave himself to purchase our freedom.” 1 Corinthians 1:30 (NIV)

In return for all these glorious gifts, God simply wants us to receive and respond with thankfulness and a heart that is ready to emulate His gracious nature. I can’t think of a better day than today to respond with gratefulness and enjoy the act of giving and receiving – Merry Christmas!

Dear Lord, thank You for Your graciousness towards me. I praise Your generosity! Help me to receive all you have for me in the coming year. And help me to value giving as much as I value receiving, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Him?

Women's Devotional Bible – NIV version

Visit Rachel’s blog, My Life in Chapter and Verse

Listen to Today’s P31 Radio Show

Application Steps:
Curl up in front of the fire, kick back in front of the Christmas tree, or just steal away to a private spot for a few minutes today and connect heart-to-heart with The Gift Giver.

What gifts had God bestowed upon you this year? Thank Him!

What gifts do you need or desire from The Gift Giver? Ask Him!

Power Verses:
Reread the thirteen verses contained above, letting them settle into your heart.

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Hope for the Holidays
“Do not judge and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” Luke 6:36 (NIV)

The holiday season should be a time of cheer. For some, however, it can be lonely and depressing. While the days leading up to Christmas should be filled with peace, joy, and hope, sadness can hover over like clouds on a rainy day. Instead of being surrounded by family, some are surrounded by the darkness of their past mistakes and failures. I wonder if it is because we all have a tendency to define ourselves by what we’ve done or didn’t do.

It’s easy to label ourselves by our past mistakes and wear these labels as if they were truth: No Good; Failure; Unfaithful; Unfit Parent; Liar; Gossip; Addict; Bitter.

The Bible tells us “as a man [or woman] thinks so he/she becomes.” Therefore, if you want to live an unhealthy life, you can. If you want to punish yourself, you will. However, being self-destructive is not God’s plan for your life. In fact, to think this way is to see yourself outside of God’s saving grace.

That’s why the Christmas season offers such hope. God gave each of us what we needed most—a Savior to save us from ourselves. The first step to putting your past behind you and moving forward with a bright and hopeful future is to allow Christ to forgive you and make heaven your future home.

You’ll find it comforting to know that you are not alone in your mistakes. The Bible tells us, “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). That means that there is not one perfect person in the entire world. We have all made wrong turns. I know I’ve made my share. No matter how hard we try to do right, we can’t. So God gave His only Son as payment for our sins. In other words, Christ paid our debt. This payment is a gift from God, which He freely offers to you and me.

The awesome thing is that you or I don’t have to earn this gift – we just receive it through faith. Through Christ’s death on the cross God says, “The debt for your sins are paid in full.”

All you and I have to do to receive His forgiveness is to agree with God about our sins. You might say something like this: Yes, God, I have made many wrong choices. I’ve done things I knew I should not do. And I’ve done things that I now realize were wrong. Today, I receive Your free gift of forgiveness for all the wrongs I have done, and I accept heaven as my eternal home. Cleanse me and change my life. Fill me with Your love, hope, joy, and peace. Thank you Jesus, for making my forgiveness possible.

If you sincerely mean what you’ve confessed, then you have been forgiven. Your slate is clean. God remembers your sins no more. It’s as if they never were there. That’s the hope of Christmas and the open doorway to peace!

The next thing you must do is forgive yourself, and forgive others who have hurt you. If you continue to define yourself as a loser or a victim, and the one who hurt you as a villain, then you will not be free.

Unforgiveness keeps us bound and unable to grow. It also warps our perspective. Like looking in the rear view mirror of a car - unforgiveness makes things appear larger than they really are. When you and I make that hurt or mistake bigger than what it is, we give it power to control us.

Just think …this could be the first Christmas where you experience real peace, joy, and forgiveness. It could be the first Christmas you are free to live with hope! It’s why Christ was born…to die and set you free.

Dear Lord, I am a sinner. I believe You died for me and rose from the grave to purchase my place in heaven. Come into my life and take control. Forgive all my sin and help me to forgive others. I’m now turning from my sin and trusting You alone for my salvation. Fill me with Your love, hope and peace in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources
Do You Know Him?

Micca’s Testimony DVD

Visit Micca’s Blog

Who Holds the Key to Your Heart? by Lysa TerKeurst

Application Steps:
Whenever you start to define yourself by your past, read Philippians 4:8 - Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things.

Do you define yourself by your past mistakes?

Do you define others by their past mistakes?

What steps can you take to forgive yourself or others?

Power Verses
Psalms 51:2, “Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.” (NIV)

Isaiah 43:25, “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.” (NIV)

Mathew 18:21, “Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, 'Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?'” (NIV)

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You’re the One I Want!
Renee Swope

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” 1 Peter 2:9 (NIV).

Christmas was only days away and we still didn’t have a tree. Living on a college-student’s budget with a baby on the way made it hard to spend $25-50 on something we didn’t need. It seemed kind of trivial when I told God how sad I felt that we couldn’t afford a Christmas tree. Then I felt guilty knowing there were children starving in Africa and people who needed so much more than us.

Yet, God didn’t think it was selfish. Instead He provided. The Sunday before Christmas we discovered a nearby tree lot had marked all the trees down to $10!

When my husband came home from classes Monday evening we hurried to the tree lot. As we walked down each row, I looked for just the right spruce to fit in the corner of our one-bedroom apartment. For this pregnant woman, choosing a tree was almost like choosing our child’s name. I took way too much time! The sun went down quickly, they turned the spotlights off and the tree lot turned pitch dark.

My creative and very patient husband pulled our car into the rows of trees and flashed on his high beams. The bright lights dispelled the darkness and standing in front of me was the most precious little tree I’d ever seen. Although it had some droopy branches and a gap on one side I pointed and said, “That’s the one I want!”

Later that night, I sat on our couch looking at my cute little spruce pine reminiscing about our evening. I’d felt sad earlier when the darkness made it impossible to see the trees but when the beams of light illuminated the lot, my heart filled with hope. Etched in my mind was a picture I wouldn’t forget, a picture that drew me back to another time marked by darkness – a time when I wasn’t choosing, but needed to be chosen.

Just when it felt like all my dreams had died and my hope was gone, God’s Light punctured the clouds of depression surrounding my mind as His love poured into my heart. It happened on another cold winter’s eve when God looked at me and said, “That’s the one I want!”

At some point in our lives, I think most of us can identify with that little tree. Scarred by disappointments we wonder if anyone would ever choose us. With gaps that make us feel like candidates for rejection we hope no one will see the holes in our hearts. Like the fate of my little spruce, it seems the only way we’ll get chosen is if all the good ones are picked first.

First Peter 2:9 reminds us that through Christ we are chosen! God sent His Son to light our darkness and fill the gaps in our hearts. Hold onto the truth that God sees you today and in His heart He’s saying, “You’re the one I want!”

Dear Lord, that spruce pine and I have a lot in common. Even with my gaps and broken branches, You chose me and made me part of Your family through Jesus. Thank you for sending Your Son to illuminate the dark corners of my life and bring hope to my heart. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources
Do You Know Him?

Unwrapping His Presence, a Christmas Message by Renee Swope

Visit Renee’s Blog, The Journey of My Heart

Shaped with Purpose Workbook and CD, by Renee Swope

Application Steps
Try paraphrasing 1 Peter 2:9 to make it personal. You can say it or pray it out loud to remind yourself of who you really are as a child of God: I am a chosen woman, a royal priest, a holy daughter, a woman belonging to God, that I may declare the praises of him who called me out of darkness into his wonderful light.

Are there times when you feel rejected or forgotten? Tell God today about the gaps you feel in your heart. Ask Him to heal the broken places that leave you feeling unwanted and show you how He sees you – holy and dearly loved – chosen and belonging to Him!

If you have never responded to God’s invitation to be chosen and loved by Him, click here to find out how you can Know Him.

Power Verses
Isaiah 43:1b, "Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.” (NIV)

Isaiah 43:4, “Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you.” (NIV)

Isaiah 43:18-19,
“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.” (NIV)

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A Little Peace of Christmas
Zoë Elmore

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

When I was young, I would lie under the Christmas tree every night just before bed time watching the lights dance over the ornaments. I loved how the smell of the tree gently hung in the air of our tiny living room. My dad and I used to sing along with Bing Crosby, and my mom would let me watch as she baked baklava (our family’s version of Christmas cookies). Now I’m aware that times were simpler then and I was a just child, but these traditions always seemed to usher in a peaceful holiday season for my family.

Today I’m so weary of commercialism and the fast pace of Christmas; the entire holiday season seems to come and go before I ever have time to enjoy the “reason for the season.” Maybe it’s just my age talking, but I’m longing to experience a little “peace” of Christmas like I used to - but making that a reality in the midst of family and work obligations seems an impossible task.

As I was pondering this dilemma, I re-read this verse in Luke and paid close attention to the word “today.” That’s it! The answer to my desire for a little “peace of Christmas” is in that one word.

Today I will commit everything I do to my sweet Jesus. Today I’ll sing every Christmas carol at the top of my voice for His glory. Today I’ll honor Christ as I decorate our home by placing a nativity set in my Christmas tree. Today this nativity will serve as a reminder that He was born in order to die on a tree so that I could experience His peace not only at Christmas, but every day. Today I’ll bake baklava and share it with the new neighbors as a way to extend the grace Christ has given me. Today I’ll call someone who is lonely and hurting and offer my shoulder for his or her tears. Thank you Lord, for You’ve shown me the way to experience that little “peace of Christmas” my heart has been longing for. That peace begins today.

If you’re longing to experience a little peace of Christmas but are wondering if it’s possible, let me encourage you to just begin with today. Begin with a fresh commitment to fulfill all of your responsibilities and obligations for the glory of the Lord. Bake each cookie or wrap each gift as if you were presenting it to your sweet Jesus personally. Sing every song you hear on the radio, and decorate each corner of your home as if Christ Himself were your honored guest because He is the unseen honored guest of your today, tomorrow and forever. Love Him now, worship Him now, and then experience a little “peace of Christmas” of your very own.

Dear Lord, I want to pause during this busy but joyous season to give You the honor and glory You deserve. Help me to remember as I celebrate Your birth that Your greatest gift to me was your very life. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources
Celebrating a Christ-Centered Christmas by Sharon Jaynes

Unwrapping His Presence, a Christmas message on CD

Zoe's blog

Application Steps
Ask the Lord to identify the activities He would have you be involved in this holy season and be willing to say “no” as the Lord leads.

What steps can you take to make a little “peace of Christmas” a reality for you and your family today?

Look at your schedule for today. Have you carved out any time for Christ, the honored guest?

Who are you trying to please?

Are you standing in the way of experiencing a little “peace of Christmas”?

Power Verses
Psalm 147:14, “He grants peace to your borders and satisfies you with the finest of wheat.” (NIV)

Proverbs 17:1, “
Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting, with strife.” (NIV)

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Helping Siblings Serve Together
Glynnis Whitwer

“As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net for they were fishermen. ‘Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will make you fishers of men.’” Matthew 4:18-19 (NIV)

Is it a coincidence that the first four disciples Jesus called to follow Him were two sets of brothers? Based on God’s intentionality throughout Scripture, that’s highly unlikely.

It wasn’t an accidental choice to pick fishermen, and it wasn’t an accident they were brothers. Yes, Jesus knew just what He was doing when He called the sibling sets of Simon Peter and Andrew, then James and John to join Him in His mission to teach the good news of the kingdom of God.

The New Testament tells of how these brothers, plus a small group of others, changed their world for the cause of Christ. What an amazing picture of siblings serving side-by-side: powerful, effective and loving. Perhaps there was an extra dose of confidence knowing a brother was there to protect your back. Maybe Jesus wanted to show others that joining God’s family meant you could have hundreds of brothers and sisters just as wonderful as Peter and Andrew, or James and John.

Today it’s rare to see siblings serving alongside each other, either in church or in a ministry outside of church. Parents often focus on allowing each child to explore his or her individual gifts and talents through service – which is a good thing. Then as brothers and sisters grow up, their lives take them away from each other. But what might happen if we initiated opportunities for our children to serve together? What if we served God with our own brothers or sisters at our sides?

I think based on Jesus’ example of calling brothers, we should seriously consider how to cultivate opportunities for our families to serve hand-in-hand. It’s never too late to take on an outreach or service project as a family. Even the smallest children can do something. And most teenagers actually like getting involved in social outreach, especially if it involves someone in great need.

This holiday season, let’s look for ways for brothers and sisters to serve together. It’s a great way to be obedient to God by serving others, and perhaps it will be the start of a world-changing mission, just like it was for those first sets of brothers who walked with Jesus.

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for giving me family to enjoy life with. Please help me to understand Your heart for brothers and sisters working together. I ask for help to know how to help my children learn to serve side-by-side, and how to serve side-by-side with my own siblings. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources
Do You Know Him?

Building the Christian Family You Never Had by Mary DeMuth

Sponsor a Child with your children or your sibling through Compassion International

Five-Star Families: Moving Yours from Good to Great, by Carol Kuykendall

Application Steps
Identify one service project you can do with your family. Put it on your calendar and commit as a family to following through with the project. Click here for ideas to show “love in action” together.

List some benefits when two people work on a project together.

What are some challenges you face when trying to unite your family to serve God together?

How might serving God together change the relationship between brothers and sisters?

Power Verses
Matthew 5:23-24, "Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.” (NIV)

Luke 10:1, “After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go.” (NIV)

Matthew 18:19-20, "
Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them." (NIV)

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If You Choose to Accept This Assignment . . .
Amy Carroll

‘“I am the Lord’s servant,’ Mary answered. ‘May it be to me as you have said.’ Then the angel left her.” Luke 1:38 (NIV)

How was Mary so accepting of her assignment from the Lord? There is no doubt that it was a glorious assignment. To carry the promised Messiah and raise Him as His mother was awe-inspiring; however, it came with tremendous personal cost. Jewish law demanded that women who became pregnant out of wedlock were to be stoned to death. Even though Joseph came to her rescue and did not end their betrothal, there were surely whispers and innuendos for the rest of her life.

In a beautiful scene in CS Lewis’ book The Horse and His Boy, Hwin, a wise horse in the story, faces a fierce lion. The lion, Aslan, is the perfect picture of the Lord in all His glory. Lewis’ characters often say of Aslan, “He’s not a tame Lion, but He is good.” The story continues like this: “Then Hwin, though shaking all over, gave a strange little neigh and trotted across to the Lion. ‘Please,’ she said, ‘you’re so beautiful. You may eat me if you like. I’d sooner be eaten by you than fed by anyone else.’” This little horse was consumed by a love and awe for Aslan that was so great that she knew Truth and inspiration in a flash.

Mary was able to be a willing servant because she knew Truth and was well acquainted with the greatness of the Master. Her praise of Him in Luke 1:46-55 displays the depth of her knowledge of Him. She praises Him as Savior, for His mindfulness of His children, as the Mighty One, for His mercy, for His power, as the mighty but compassionate King, as Provider and as the compassionate Lord of Israel. The One who gave the assignment was no stranger to Mary. Her heart of praise reveals her deep love and awe for Him.

God has an assignment for each of us, too. He created us with a purpose in mind and with good works for His children to perform. How do we respond to His assignments for us, especially if they involve personal cost? If we have invested our lives in knowing our Master, it will be much easier to be joyful servants. We will know that our highest good is linked to His glory. We’ll know that true personal loss comes in the form of disobedience to the Lord. We’ll remember that He is worthy and that serving Him is its own priceless reward.

There have been times that I’ve ignored His voice. Sometimes it was because of busyness. Sometimes I questioned whether it was His voice or my own I heard. Other times it was just outright disobedience. Every time I was left with regret and emptiness. He is so merciful, and He forgave me when I asked. He gently and faithfully restored me. I don’t want to miss any more opportunities to say “yes” to His assignment, so I’m fixing my eyes on Jesus. I want to know my Master so well that I hear His voice and follow Him into any assignment that He gives me. I want to become a maidservant to the Lord, just like Mary.

Dear Lord, You are worthy of my entire life and all of my devotion. Help me to hear and obey Your voice. I desire to joyfully accept every assignment that You have for my life. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources
Shaped with Purpose, CD and Workbook by Renee Swope

6 Habits of Highly Effective Christians by Brian T. Anderson & Glynnis Whitwer

Discerning the Voice of God – How To Recognize When God Speaks by Priscilla Shirer

Do You Know Him?

Application Steps
Write down the last assignment that you heard God give to you.

List the steps that you’ve taken or need to take to say “yes” to that assignment. Pray and ask God to help you take the next step.

What are some times that I have clearly heard God’s direction?

Have I responded in obedience or disobedience? What have been the results?

Do I really trust God to give me assignments that are both for His glory and my good?

Power Verses
Psalm 84:10, “Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.” (NIV)

Philippians 3:8-9, “...I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him....”

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The Real Picture of Peace
Tracie Miles

“Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” Luke 2:14 (NKJV)

Choosing just the right Christmas card to send to my friends and family is always something I put a lot of thought into. As I looked over the variety of cards on the store shelves this year, I noticed they all had one thing in common. Whether the pictures showed lit candles on a festive table, a warm fireplace with stockings hung in a row, a smiling family having Christmas dinner, or a blanket of new fallen snow in a moon-lit meadow, they all portrayed a feeling of serenity and peace. I wish I could say those images signify the holidays at my house, but there are days when peace and serenity seem to be unattainable!

Just this week I found myself yearning for the peace so often portrayed on Christmas cards – the peace of perfect families, perfect gifts, perfect meals and perfect weather. In my heart, however, I know that the real picture of peace is not found in any of these things. The peace I long for is found when I set my eyes on Jesus, the Prince of Peace who came to bring peace to our hearts and homes.

Sometimes I close my eyes and ponder the picture of Jesus’ birth. Though chaos reigned in the small Bethlehem town, there was Peace on earth that night.

I tend to set my sights on holiday projects, and devote my time to things that the world thinks are important, but not necessarily the things that Jesus thinks are important. Jesus does not care about how beautiful my Christmas tree is, how many presents I have under it, or how many candles I have lit in my windows. Jesus cares about the people I invite into my home to celebrate in His birth, the times I share the light of His love with others, and the times I’m willing to put the needs of others before my own selfish desires.

Deep in my heart those are the things that I care most about, too. When I know I’ve shown the love of Jesus to others, only then can I truly have the peace that is waiting for me at Christmas time. These are the things that please Him and give peace to me! As today’s key verse promises, we will have peace when God is pleased.

A real picture of peace at Christmas is not holidays with an absence of stress or strife, but a heart with a passion for Jesus and a love for sharing the gift of life that God gave us through the birth of His son.

Dear Lord, help me avoid getting so caught up in worldly holiday traditions that I lose sight of the heart–gifts You want me to give to others this Christmas. Fill me with a true peace that can only be found through living a life that is pleasing to You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources
Do You Know Him?

For today only, get a great deal on resources to help you find financial peace at Dave Ramsey’s website

A Life That Says Welcome: Simple Ways to Open Your Heart and Home to Others by Karen Ehman

Application Steps
Make a list of ideas for how you can share God’s love with others. Click here for a list of ways to show “love in action” this Christmas.

Consider ways for giving non-monetary gifts that will be meaningful to the recipients.

Do something unexpectedly nice for as many as you can this month.

Do I put more worth on the monetary value of gifts I give or receive, or the love and thought that was put into the gift giving?

Power Verses
John 14:27, “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.” (NIV)

Ephesians 2:17, “He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near.” (NIV)

Romans 12:18, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (NIV)

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No More Pit Dwelling for Me
Lysa TerKeurst

Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before.” Daniel 6:10 (NIV)

Have you ever been in a pit? Yesterday I was. But I’m refusing to stay there. So, today, I am choosing to be thank-full instead of pity-full. With each thing I verbalize my thankfulness for, it is like a stepping stone out of the pit.

Interestingly enough, there is always a Bible character that you can read about who found themselves in the pit as well. I mean, God's people have a tendency to be pit dwellers. But, the beautiful thing about the Bible stories is God always shows the way out.

In Daniel 6:10, Daniel had just learned that if anyone was caught praying to anyone else besides King Darius, they would be thrown into the Lion's Den. That's a serious pit! But Daniel's reaction is amazing.

He went home, threw his windows open, and prayed anyway. I'm not thinking he did this because he felt good. I'm imagining he felt like anyone would feel if their life was in danger. But he rose above his feelings to make a choice.

And do you know what he chose to pray?
"God, save me"? No.
"God, it's not fair"? No.
"God, this is too much"? No.
"God, help me face this with courage"? No.
"God, smite my enemies and wipe them out"? No.

What Daniel prayed is a powerful lesson for me.

Daniel prayed, "Thank you, God." That's right, the Bible said Daniel prayed prayers of thanksgiving just as he had done before. What this teaches me is three things. First, Daniel had a habit of being thankful. Therefore, who God is and what God provides was front and center in Daniel's heart.

Secondly, being a thankful person helped Daniel combat fear and feelings of being overwhelmed. Never once does the story mention Daniel trying to hide. He threw his windows open and made sure people saw him praying! Daniel knew that if God saved him from the lions, he would be okay. Daniel also had peace that if God did not save him from the lions, he would be in heaven with God and therefore okay.

Lastly, Daniel's unwavering faith in God made a lasting impression on others. At the end of Daniel's lion den experience, King Darius says in verse 26 that Daniel's God, our God, is the living God who endures forever!

Dear God, I know it is normal for us to sometimes find ourselves in a pit. But we don’t have to stay there. Thank you for providing your timeless truths that prove to us over and over again, how powerfully capable You always are. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources
Thank-FULL, Fear-LESS message, on CD by Lysa TerKeurst

Visit Lysa’s Blog

A Recipe for Christmas Joy, E-book by Marybeth Whalen

“Love in Action” – P31 Compassion Blog

Application Steps
Make a list of things you are thankful for. Put it in a file called “Directions out of the pit.” Add to your thankful list often. The next time you feel your heart being pulled into a pitiful place, pull your file out and start thanking God out loud for everything on your list.

Is there anyone in your life that you can turn to when you are having a pit day? Make sure it is someone who will help remind you of all the good things in you and in your life.

If you don’t have a friend like this, pray for God to send this kind of friend.

Are there circumstances about your life that seem to drag you down on a consistent basis? What can you do to eliminate or at least minimize their effect on you?

Are you spending time thanking God each day for something? If not, why not start today and make this a new, healthy habit!

Power Verses
Lamentations 3:54- 58, “The waters closed over my head, and I thought I was about to be cut off. I called on your name, O Lord, from the depths of the pit. You heard my plea: 'Do not close your ears to my cry for relief.' You came near when I called you, and you said, Do not fear. O Lord, you took up my case; you redeemed my life.” (NIV)

Jonah 2: 6-7, “To the roots of the mountains I sank down; the earth beneath barred me in forever. But you brought my life up from the pit, O Lord my God. When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, LORD, and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple.” (NIV)

Ecclesiastes 4:10, “If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up.” (NIV)

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Room Enough for Jesus
Micca Campbell

“And she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” Luke 2:7 (NASB)

One of the first words that come to mind when most think about the holiday season is “busy.” Sad, but true. We are busy decorating the house, baking goodies, shopping for presents, planning parties, attending Christmas plays, and writing out our Christmas cards. Then, just when we think we’ve got a handle on it, we receive that unexpected card in the mail or the neighbor brings us a fruit cake. What do we do? We find time to return the gesture.

In fact, we find time and make the room to do all sorts of things during the holidays. We make room for company to come. We make room in front of the picture window for the Christmas tree. We even make room in the kitchen cabinets to store the extra cooking ingredients we need to make our favorite holiday dishes. Let me ask you this…have you made room for Jesus this season?

In the familiar story of Christ’s birth, I’ve always been bothered that there was no room in the inn for Jesus. I can’t help but think, Didn’t they know who He was? What could have been so important that they couldn’t stop to make room for Jesus? My best guess is they were thinking only about themselves and their own busy agenda. In doing so, they missed Jesus.

Likewise, we can become so busy with our Christmas agenda that we can miss Jesus, too. Instead, we should approach the season with expectancy. If we make the time and room for Jesus, I know He will show up! My nephew taught me that.

One of my mother’s Christmas traditions is to withhold baby Jesus from her nativity set until Christmas morning. One year, when her firstborn grandson was about three years old, he asked her, “Grandmamma, where is baby Jesus?”

“He’s not been born yet,” she explained to Patrick. “Jesus comes on Christmas Day. Then, you’ll find Him lying right here,” she added while pointing to the manger.

Like years past, Christmas came. Mom’s and Dad’s house was full of excitement as each family member arrived with their arms full of presents. We expected to exchange gifts and enjoy a time for food, fun, and celebration. Patrick expected something different. He came running into the house shouting, “Is He here, yet? Is He here? Has Jesus come?”

Mother took Patrick over to the nativity and there, cradled in the manger, was baby Jesus. He had come just like He had promised.

Over 2,000 years ago, God promised us a Savior. In a little town called Bethlehem, God kept His promise and Christ our Lord was born. While most missed what was happening that holy night, Christ’s birth didn’t escape the attention of heaven, a few shepherds, three Wise men, and some cattle. They pushed aside their duties and agendas to make room for Jesus. In fact, like Patrick, some of them anticipated His arrival. In doing so, their lives were forever changed.

Every year Jesus still searches for hearts to fill. The trouble is He can only fill the space you and I allow for Him. Will you make room in your heart for Jesus this season?

Christ’s presence may go unnoticed by the world, but you and I, along with heaven, a few shepherds, three wise men, and others who have made room in their hearts, can experience all the glorious wonder that He brings.

I invite you to throw away your busy agenda this year. I nstead, make room for Christ to come. Anticipate His arrival and experience Christmas like never before!

Dear Lord, The best I know how, I lay down my busy agenda to make room for You. Jesus, I don’t want to miss a thing. Give me fresh eyes to see You anew this holiday season. I want to experience Your birth like never before so that I never close You out again. Welcome home, Lord. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources
Do You Know Him?

Visit Micca’s Blog

Celebrating a Christ-Centered Christmas by Sharon Jaynes

Advent: Making Christmas about Christ by Lisa Robertson

Application Steps
Be intentional about letting go of the things that are not necessary in order to make room for Christ this season. Then experience Him to the fullest!

Do you feel like you must give a present or write a card to every person who gives you one? Why or why not?

Think of ways you can worship Jesus as you decorate your tree, purchase your gifts, and make your treats.

How you can make room for the Christ child this year?

Power Verses
Mathew 6:33, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (NIV)

Deuteronomy 6:5, “Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” (NIV)

Exodus 20:3, “You shall have no other gods before me.” (NIV)

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The Christ Child and the King
Karen Ehman

“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 2:11-12 (NIV)

“Read it again Mommy. Pleeeease read it again,” Mackenzie, my then seven-year-old, begged. Her three-year-old brother, Mitchell, echoed her plea. “Yes Mommy, especially the part about the little boy and his donkey!”

Their freshly washed faces and still wet hair glowed in the light of the Christmas tree as they sat with pajamas on next to me on the couch. A nightly December ritual, they chose a book from our “Baby Jesus Basket” full of story books about the birth of Christ. Their favorite this particular year was The Small One, a fictitious story of a too small donkey who has to be sold in order to bring in one piece of silver. His young master takes him to town, but no one wants such a small creature except for the village tanner. The donkey is ready to give up his life when a kind man offers to buy him to help carry his pregnant wife to Bethlehem. So the small donkey is given the great task of carrying the mother of Jesus to the stable where He will be born.

I have always loved reading Christmas stories to my children and each year they receive a new nativity book from my mom. That year, however, my eyes were opened to part of the story that I had been unintentionally leaving out. After tottering over to the “Baby Jesus Basket” to put away the book we’d just finished, Mitchell asked me to read him a story from the Bible about the other Jesus.

“What other Jesus?” I asked.

“Not baby Jesus,” he replied. “Big Jesus who died on the cross.”

Now realizing that he’d not connected the two in his mind, I sat and explained that the baby Jesus grew up to be the same Jesus who died on the cross to save us from our sins. Somehow he’d figured baby Jesus was a fairy tale and big Jesus was “for real.”

I thought of how we adults can do much the same thing. Oh, we know there is just one Jesus and that He is for real, but we are content to leave Him harmlessly in the manger. Somehow a sweet adorable little baby is acceptable to the world around us. But a Lord who calls for men and women to choose either to obey Him or suffer the consequences is not. But we can’t have one part of the story without the other. We must never forget that the hand-hewn manger one day became an old rugged cross. We can’t just peer lovingly into the manger without looking obediently to the cross. Baby Jesus deserves our adoration and the Lord Jesus deserves our allegiance.

The next year I did not neglect the entire story of the one true Jesus when reading nativity books to our children. Starting with Luke chapter two from God’s perfect Word before I chose a picture book from our special basket we read of God’s wonderful plan of sending Jesus to earth. We worked on memorizing more of the Scripture in order to put on our annual nativity play for Grandma and Grandpa complete with baby Spencer starring as the Christ child.

Still today, we’re inventing ways to keep the story going until Easter in order to tie it all together. One woman told me of how they save their Christmas tree, cut off all of the branches so they are left with one large trunk. They then cut off the top about one-third of the way down and then using twine tie the two pieces together in the shape of the cross. It is then placed in their house where the Christmas tree had been as a visual reminder of the entire life of Christ.

From the cradle to the cross . . . oh come let us adore Him!

Dear Lord, help me connect in my mind the sweetness of the baby Jesus with submission to the King of Kings. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources
Do You Know Him?

Homespun Memories for the Heart by Karen Ehman

Homespun Gifts from the Heart by Karen Ehman

The ADVENTure of Christmas by Lisa Whelchel

Think back to your earliest recollections of learning about Jesus. How was He portrayed to you? Fact or fiction?

How do you now portray Him to others? As harmless baby or Lord of all? If you have contact with children, how can you make the truth of Jesus come alive to them?

Application Steps
Be on the lookout for how the world depicts Jesus at this time of year. Are the examples you see accurate? Why or why not?

Determine to use the Christmas season as a crack in the door to open up a conversation with someone about the reality of Christ and what He requires of mankind.

Power Verses
John 14:23, “Jesus replied, ‘If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.’” (NIV)

Hebrews 12:2 “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (NIV)

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Holiday Hassles
Susanne Scheppmann

“My people will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest.” Isaiah 32:18 (NIV)

My husband, Mark, hauled in the mummy-wrapped tree from the garage. He propped it upright. Dust flew as he began to peel away the cellophane with his usual exuberant self-confidence. I watched with trepidation. I felt the familiar festivity stress begin to surface. The “holiday hassles” seem to begin when the Christmas tree goes up. However, as the clear protective wrap dropped from the branches, I saw the exact same Christmas tree from the year before. A quiet peace oozed into my spirit, and I felt my dread of the evening’s work disappear as the adorable gingerbread tree emerged.

It began at a charity Christmas tree auction last year. We bid on a uniquely decorated artificial tree. Cookie cutters, dough-like men with painted clothes and brightly embroidered felt ornaments hung on its boughs. Every piece promoted a gingerbread theme. Because of the tree’s popularity, we needed to keep bidding higher. But finally, we won the bid and took our treasured tree home.

However, after the holidays a dilemma arose. How would we store the tree? I knew if we removed the decorations, we would never be able to recreate the perfection of the original. Mark decided to wrap the gingerbread-adorned decoration in plastic wrap and store it the garage. I thought he was cuckoo. We live in the desert where the temperature can rise to over 115 degrees in the summer. I pictured rodents snacking on the flour and salt mixture of the gingerbread men. I envisioned creepy bugs moving into the newly-planned insect community. I argued against the scheme, to no avail.

Although I had predicted dire results for the tree, it now stood in its perfect gingerbread attire. It dawned on me that we had “put up” our tree without any fuss. Only a bit of dust needed to be wiped away. We didn’t experience any tangled lights, burned out bulbs, or snarled metal ornament hooks. Instead of hours of exertion, we popped a bowl of buttery popcorn and watched our favorite Christmas movie.

I realized that I tend to make my own Christmas stress. I could have insisted on storing the tree in a hundred boxes and then taking hours to figure out how to reassemble it. But because of my husband’s ingenuity, we gazed at our prized tree without expending a lot of time or energy.

So from now on, if there are places to cut corners in the hustle-bustle of Christmas, I intend to do it. The key is finding out creative ways to keep Christmas simple, yet meaningful. I will keep certain traditions that I truly enjoy-- making fudge and Christmas cookies. However, because I haven’t been able to bake a decent pie crust in twenty years, I am going to buy the pumpkin pies. Instead of wrapping presents, my gifts will go into those blessed gift bags. And I think that while I am out purchasing those bags, I am going to buy another industrial size roll of cellophane. I just might be able to plastic wrap the tree, the wreath and who knows what else to avoid holiday hassles for next year.

Dear Lord, remind me this month not to let holiday hassles steal my peace and joy. Help me find ways to save time and energy, so I can rest in the true meaning of Christmas, which is You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources

Looking to eliminate your financial hassles as well? Expert advice is available from Dave Ramsey. This week all Dave’s books, tapes and DVDs are on sale for $10.

Perplexing Proverbs by Susanne Scheppmann

A Christmas To Remember, Conference Tape Set by Lysa TerKeurst

A Recipe for Christmas Joy, E-book by Marybeth Whalen

Application Steps
Examine your Christmas to-do list. Pray over the list, asking God to show you how to minimize your stress and maximize peace in your home. Then begin to implement the time and energy-saving methods that come to your mind.

Does stress keep me from enjoying the holidays?

Why do I feel pressured to have a “perfect” Christmas every year?

What activities bring me joy and contentment during the month of December?

Power Verses
Ecclesiastes 8:15, “So I commend the enjoyment of life, because nothing is better for a man under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad. Then joy will accompany him in his work all the days of the life God has given him under the sun.” (NIV)

Jeremiah 31:25, “I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint.” (NIV)

Matthew 11:28, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (NIV)

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Ornament Exchange
Zoë Elmore

“And exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.” Romans 1:23 (NIV)

Each year I participate in an ornament exchange with friends where we forcibly “trade” our ornaments with one another. It never fails that one ornament is very desirable and traded the most often until the game ends. I bet you’ve participated in the same type of ornament or gift exchange, and if you’re like me, it’s one of the highlights of the Christmas season.

This year as I began to print the invitations for the party, one word in particular leapt off of the page; it wasn’t the word “gift” as you might imagine, it was the word “exchange.” I don’t know how I’ve missed the significance of that word before today. To exchange means to give up one thing for another. In the ornament exchange what I give up could be for something better or something worse.

The same is true in my spiritual life; every day I can choose to exchange my worldliness for godliness, and many times I’m on the losing end as I make the wrong choice. I do exactly what this verse warns against as I value other things more than God, and exchange the imperishable for the perishable, especially at this time of year. When I’m thoughtless and uncaring, it’s like exchanging gold for iron. When I neglect my spiritual life, it’s like exchanging diamonds for dust.

Paul’s words in Philippians 3:8, “to count everything else as rubbish that we might gain Christ” is my memory verse for this month, and Romans 12:1 is encouraging me to exchange my pride, my self-focus, my selfish ambitions, and my worldliness for a life of holiness as a holy and pleasing sacrifice to God.

You might think I’m encouraging you to exchange everything you have, and you are right! Exchanging your self-centered life to pursue holiness is the only way to experience real life—eternal life. The blessings you will receive from God, both in this lifetime and in the eternal life to come, far outweigh anything this life has to offer. In fact it’s to die for!

As you prepare to exchange gifts with family and friends this Christmas season be mindful of the spiritual blessings you receive when you exchange the things of this world for something far greater.

Dear Lord, forgive my selfishness and help me to remember the blessings and benefits of exchanging my worldliness for spiritual wisdom and holiness. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources
Celebrating a Christ-Centered Christmas by Sharon Jaynes

Visit Zoe’s Blog

Consider giving a gift subscription to the P31 Woman Magazine

Exchange the Gift of “Love in Action” – P31 Compassion Blog

Application Steps
Write down the worldly things you can exchange and the spiritual riches you will receive.

Find someone to hold you accountable for your exchanges.

Are you pursuing personal holiness in this holiday season?

What areas of your life is the Lord asking you to exchange?

Power Verses
Isaiah 40:7-8, "The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the Lord blows on them. Surely the people are grass. The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever.” (NIV)

Philippians 3:8, “What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish that I may gain Christ.” (NIV)

2 Corinthians 7:1, “Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.” (NIV)

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Don’t Miss Him!
Marybeth Whalen

“We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.” John 6:69 (NIV)

I remember reading an account of the Christmas story that focused on all the people who came in contact with that young couple searching for a place to stay—the busy townspeople dealing with the crowds, the innkeeper too busy counting his money and taking care of guests to be bothered for long, the other travelers worried about where they would sleep. The author pointed out that so many of us still make the same mistake of rushing past the drama that unfolded in a forgotten corner of Bethlehem that night. Consumed with our own problems and issues, we glance away from the significance of Jesus’ arrival to focus on a myriad of tasks. And in all our rushing and stress, we miss an opportunity to connect with our Savior in a whole new way.

There are only a few people mentioned in the Christmas story, yet we know that the city was filled to bursting with travelers and citizens. There was no lack of folks there who could have welcomed the Christ child. They just didn’t stop long enough to look for Him. Though He was right under their noses, they scurried right past Him. I often wonder if those who were there that night later told the story down through the ages, “I was in Bethlehem that night, you know. I stayed just a few houses away from that stable. I could have seen Him if I would have known.” Those folks could have stood in adoration alongside Mary and Joseph, and the shepherds, marveling at what God was doing before their very eyes. And they missed the opportunity of a lifetime.

And yet, how many of us say the very same thing about Jesus, even now? If only we had more time. If only we had more money and didn’t have to work so hard. If only we weren’t so busy. “Then Jesus,” we say, “Then I would be able to really know You. Instead, I race past You, unaware. And I lose out on the opportunity to see You in the process, to touch You. To know what it means to utter” Immanuel, God with us. God with me.”

Don’t miss Jesus this year in all your busyness. Don’t be like the busy citizens of Bethlehem who could have had a part in God’s story if only they would have stopped long enough to look for Him. Make Jesus your focus this year and allow Him to show you how to slow down, to be less busy, less stressed. Ask Him what you can let go of. Ask Him to give you the courage to say no when you need to. Ask Him to help you have an encounter with Him like never before. What better time to do it than now, at Christmas, when our thoughts are focused on His coming. There has never been a better time to allow Him to come into your life, your heart. Look for Him around every corner, in every face, in every moment.

Dear Lord, Right now I am stopping to tell You that I do not want to miss You. I am committing to look for You everywhere instead of rushing right past You. I want to know You intimately. Thank You for coming to earth back then, and thank You for coming into my heart and life now. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources
A Recipe for Christmas Joy, E-book by Marybeth Whalen

Celebrating a Christ-Centered Christmas by Sharon Jaynes

Marybeth’s Blog

Do You Know Him?

Application Steps
Today, determine to find an instance that you clearly see Jesus. Write it down and remember to thank Him for being the God who is near.

Is there something you need to lay down this Christmas so that you can better focus on Christ? What will that look like in your life?

Do you need to spend time praying over this issue - asking Jesus to give you discernment, strength and wisdom?

Power Verses
Philippians 3:8, “What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish that I may gain Christ.” (NIV)

John 10:14, “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me.” (NIV)

II Peter 3:18, “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.” (NIV)

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Unwrapping His Christmas Presence
Renee Swope

"The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and you will call Him Immanuel, God with us." Isaiah 7:14 (NIV)

Plans for the perfect Christmas danced in my head! My mom, my brother and my husband’s parents were dropping in. Plus my dad and his wife would be here Christmas day, and JJ's brother and family were coming too. Inviting our out-of-town families to our new home for the holidays was a dream come true. The fact that they could all come at some point between Christmas and New Years was just short of a miracle.

However, by the time everyone got here, I couldn't wait for them to leave!

In the midst of all the preparations, I’d gotten tangled up in Christmas lights and unrealistic expectations. First, my husband and children petitioned for blinking colored lights on the tree. I don't do colored lights on the tree. I am a "white lights" kind of girl, I insisted. JJ decided decorating should be a "family activity" that year. Who was this man and why had he not brought this up in pre-marriage counseling?

The control freak in me was freaking out! Don't get in the way of my perfect Christmas with white lights that make me and my home feel peaceful!Further attempts to have the perfect house, the perfect menu and perfect table settings were robbing my holiday joy. This being my first time hosting a holiday dinner, I’d failed to notice that my Christmas place mats didn't coordinate with my everyday cloth napkins, and I didn't have festive napkin rings. Worst of all, I didn't know how to cook a turkey - I had never cooked a Christmas turkey. I had never cooked a Thanksgiving turkey, or a July fourth turkey!

In the midst of all the holiday obligations (that I placed on myself), I experienced one of my worst Christmases. I had a house full of people, but an oh-so-empty heart!

Christmas day I walked through my living room picking up wrapping paper and wondering why my dreams of a "perfect Christmas" hadn't come true. Isn’t this what I’d wanted? Many of the elements seemed to be in place: kids running around with remote control cars, adults on the couch snoring to the tune of jingle bells, and grown men playing sidewalk hockey in the driveway. Weren’t we having a Christ-centered Christmas? We'd lit Advent candles and set out the nativity.

Trying to escape the holiday noise, I went upstairs to my bedroom to read my Bible. I tiptoed into my walk-in closet and sat in a corner hoping no one would find me. There I opened my Bible to read the Christmas story: “She gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped Him in cloths and placed Him in a manger…" (Luke 2:7). The footnote referenced Isaiah 7:14, "The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and you will call Him Immanuel, God with us."

Closing my eyes, I imagined Mary wrapping baby Jesus just like a gift. Her hands carefully folding each corner as she placed a kiss on his forehead. He was just like the gifts I wrapped and placed under my tree, I thought. Then I imagined an unopened gift still under my tree waiting to be unwrapped so God could give me the gift of His presence.

I’d forgotten to open the most important gift of all, the gift of Immanuel, God with us.
I bowed my head again and unwrapped God’s presence in my closet that day. I invited Jesus to bring calm to my anxious heart. To bring His perspective to my expectations and to help me enjoy the gifts of my family that were waiting downstairs. Simply delighting in the fact that He was with me brought peace to my heart unlike anything white lights and matching table settings could ever bestow. It ended up being the perfect Christmas after all!

Dear Lord, no matter how busy life gets or how lonely I feel this Christmas, I want to unwrap the gift of Your presence each day. Help me to see You, hear Your voice speak to my heart, and pay attention when You lead me with Your peace and Your perspective. I seek Your purpose in all of my plans. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources
Unwrapping His Presence, Renee Swope’s Christmas Message on CD

Visit Renee’s Blog

A Recipe for Christmas Joy, E-book by Marybeth Whalen

Do You Know Him?

Application Steps
Make a list of expectations and preparations that could steal your focus this Christmas. Place the list in a gift box and wrap it in God’s presence with a prayer - asking for His perspective and peace for everything you listed.

If you feel yourself getting anxious, go back to the box and remind yourself that each assignment and challenge is wrapped in God’s peace. Trust Him and thank Him that no matter what comes your way, He is with you!

Look at your calendar. Can you see which days in December might be the most challenging? Pencil in time to be with Jesus each day (especially the busy ones). Sit still in His presence, soak in His perspective (through His Word) and bask in His peace as you work, drive, wrap gifts and cook. Listen to songs that remind you of the gift of Christmas - Immanuel – God with you!

Power Verses
Isaiah 26:12, "Lord, you establish peace for us; all that we have accomplished you have done for us.” (NIV)

John 14:27, “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.” (NIV)

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)

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