Friday, December 27, 2013

Being Wise

“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore, be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.” Matthew 10:16 (NKJV)

Why are the Wise Men called Wise Men? Surely not because they were rich because there are many affluent people who are neither very smart nor extremely wise. All we have to answer the question are their actions: They saw the star, decided to follow it, asked Herod for directions, found the baby, worshiped Him, gave Him gifts, receive a warning in a dream, and returned home by a different road.

Every one of their actions requires choices. After being curious about a new star they chose to study it. They used all their knowledge and resources, including questioning Herod. They prepared for a long journey, including gifts for many along the way. They did not block knowledge received from the Lord (a dream) by deciding only that which they could touch, see, taste, hear or smell was valid.

An interesting contrast to the Wise Men, are the obvious foolish choices which Herod made. He wanted only to be rich and powerful in his little tiny corner of the world. The Wise Men, of course, could have become and might have been wise rulers in their home country.

Throughout the Bible there are many other examples of wise and foolish actions or decisions. When Jesus told his followers to “Be wise as serpents and harmless as doves,” he was calling them to make wise choices based on his teachings about the Father. That call continues through the years and comes to all who await His return. In this coming year, may we all seek to be wise.
Lord, reveal your wisdom and your call in each day of this coming year.  Help us do your will.

 © 2013 V. Colclasure

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The Twelveth Day of Christmas---The Little Drummer Girl

Whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31b (KJV)

As an eleven year old, I joined the music class in my school. Already late into the year, there wasn't much to choose from except the drums. The teacher gave me a pair of drum sticks and a rubber pad for practice. The other drummers already knew their "licks," as well as the hand signals the teacher used to depict the songs. It was confusing to me, but I followed along, learning the beats.

When I told my mother about the drum, she purchased a pair of drum sticks for me. I felt so proud and took them to school, practicing in music class. At home, I beat on everything, rat-a-tat-tatting all over the house.

At the Christmas rehearsal, the girls wore white dresses with black shoes. Mother bought beautiful, white waffle-weave material and a pattern. While I was in school, she sewed a dress for me and bought a pair of black patent leather shoes.

The night of the recital, I stood near the front. We went through the songs and drum routines, but I was relieved when it was over. I never could remember the hand signals so I played by rote.

Later, I heard "The Little Drummer Boy" song, written by Katherine Kennicott Davis in 1941. The little boy had nothing but a song to give to the baby King, so he played his best. He gave his heart. I gave mine as well. Today, I cannot hear the song unless I play "air drums" and hum along. "I played my best for Him. Pa rum-pa-pum-rum."

Jesus, in this life, let me continue to play for You until I can play in heaven. Amen.

(c) 2013 E. Bonnie Ryan

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Eleventh Day of Christmas: Go, Tell It On The Mountain

Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go.  Matthew 28:16 (NIV)

Recently, I had the opportunity to become more aware of the persecution our brothers and sisters in Christ face world wide. While hearing stories shared by missionaries, who are much like the eleven faithful disciples, I was humbled that my own burdens pale in comparison to those of our beloved fellow Christians facing hardship for loving our God, believing in salvation delivered to us through Christ Jesus, and spreading the word.

We have the freedom to worship and witness freely, they do not. We are blessed to be able to share God’s word and witness with the intent to make more and better disciples without facing imprisonment or worse. I felt led to share this scripture on the inside of one of the Bibles being delivered to missionaries abroad:

                                 So do not fear, for I am with you,
                                 Do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
                                 I will strengthen you and help you;
                                 I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. 
                                                                         Isaiah 41:10 (NIV)

In an email two days later, that same scripture came back to me. It seems I needed to be encouraged by those words as well as share them. The scripture had a powerful effect on me. I pray the Bible’s recipient receives the same blessing in reading those words for true strength comes through grace by faith.
Heavenly Father, as I reflect on events of past years I am truly humbled and tremendously blessed in Your faithfulness. Be ever present with us as, encouraged in 2 Timothy 4:7 (NIV), we fight the good fight, finish the race and keep the faith. In Jesus’ name. 
 (c) 2013 Atalie Shackelford

Monday, December 23, 2013

Tenth Day of Chrsitmas - "Lords a Leaping"

Tenth Day of Christmas:  Ten Lords Leaping

…He will save, He will rejoice over thee with joy; He will rest in His love, He will joy over thee with singing. Zeph. 3:17 (KJV)

Many years ago I experienced a moment of revelation when I saw a drawing of Jesus laughing. His head was tilted back and His mouth was open in a huge smile. “Yes,” I thought, “He was human as well as divine. Of course He laughed sometimes.”

Our God takes pleasure in His children and He offers us joy. Just as he is the source of love, truth, mercy and peace, He is the source of joy. Often, when we come to Him, He rejoices over us.

The ten lords leaping are a symbol of the Ten Commandments. Their leaping is a sign of joy.
King David expressed his joy by leaping and dancing before the Lord as he brought the ark of the
covenant home. John the Baptist leapt for joy in his mother’s womb when he sensed the presence of Jesus. Several times when people with a crippling disease were healed, they rose up and leapt for joy. 

Their joy came from understanding God’s laws, His grace and His plan. For thousands of years the Ten Commandments have been the basis for law in countries holding true to Judeo-Christian ethics. Later Jesus’ teachings clarified and offered an even more focused understanding of God’s grace and plans for His people. He wants the same for us. He wants us to leap for joy—if not with our limbs, with our hearts. God also wants to leap and dance over us with singing. I think He will be smiling.

Father God, help us to honor your laws and rest in the joy and peace you offer.

© Christy Struben 2013


Sunday, December 22, 2013

Ninth Day of Christmas: A Reason to Dance

Let them praise His name with the dance; (Psalm 149:3a KJV).

Little children excited about Christmas gifts dance around the house. We may ask them to calm down, yet the Gift of all time, the reason for Christmas, can even get the grownups dancing. How can we not dance: God sent His only Son to set us free!

Holiday season or not, and even though we are thankful that God sent Jesus for us, the circumstances of life can be overwhelming. How can we dance when getting out of bed is a challenge? How can we dance when the pain runs deep, the loss is too much to bear, or when trauma leaves us frightened and confused? How can we dance when our bodies or minds are afflicted with illness?

I will build you up again, and you… will be rebuilt. Again you will take up your timbrels and go out to dance with the joyful (Jeremiah 31:4, TNIV)… I will turn [your] mourning into gladness (Jeremiah 31:13, NIV).

During one of the most difficult seasons in my life, the song, “Dance, Children Dance” (Leon Patillo, 1979) encouraged me to stay focused and to have a reason to dance in the midst of bleak—and what appeared to be hopeless—circumstances. Problems can be overwhelming, but God stays the same. We can dance because of who He is and because of the hope He gives. We can dance because if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. (John 8:36, NIV)

God has given us the victory through Jesus. Like David, let us dance before the Lord with all [our] might (2 Samuel 6:14, NIV).

Thank you for turning my mourning into dancing. Thank you for setting me free.

© 2013 Nance

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Eight Maids

There are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. John 21:25 (NKJV)

Christmas is a time to celebrate God’s gift to us. On the theme of maids, eight women received special gifts that changed their lives.

Jesus taught Martha to relax in His presence. She later declared Jesus as the Messiah.

Martha’s sister Mary sat at Jesus’ feet, listening and learning. Worship became visible when she anointed those same feet with oil and dried them with her hair.

An adulterous woman stood condemned to death. Her encounter with Jesus drove out condemnation and placed her on a path forged by forgiveness.

The woman at the well met the Savior and received living water. She became a missionary in her own town.

A woman suffering from twelve-years of bleeding reached out in faith to touch Jesus’ robe. She received instant healing.

Mary Magdalene followed Jesus faithfully after being delivered from demons. On Easter morning she was the first person to whom Jesus appeared, receiving joy for sadness.

Elizabeth, barren for years, conceived in her old age. When Mary visited, carrying Jesus in her womb, Elizabeth’s unborn child leapt, recognizing the presence of the Lord.

And would Christmas be complete without this same Mary, a young virgin who would bear the King? She humbly received the gift and glorified the Lord.

On this eighth day of Christmas, as expectations rise, details beckon, and pressure mounts, consider these simple women who met God. Their stories have been told for millennia. Meet Him in your circumstance. Receive His gift. You will never be the same.

Lord, thank you for the countless miracles you gift us with each day.

© 2013 Katherine A. Fuller

Friday, December 20, 2013

Seven Swans A'Swimming

I have baptized you with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit. (Mark 1:8 ESV)

Just as swans swim and gain life from the water, humans gain life from the Holy Spirit. “The Seven Swans A’ Swimming” was code for the seven gifts from the Holy Spirit. Some churches emphasize these gifts of Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Fortitude, Knowledge, Piety and Fear of the Lord. The gifts have influence over one’s ability to follow Christ.

When a gift is unused, clean and pristine in the original box, it may bring money value on the Antique Roadshow, but its true value and purpose is lost. When one asks God to help unwrap the gift, from it will flow the Fruit of the Holy Spirit which are Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-control.

Several years ago I asked God to show me humility. Humility falls under the gift of Fear of the Lord. The Lord quickly answered that prayer and is continuing to do so. People are noticing that I have more gentleness, peace and love. The gift of the Fear of the Lord has been unwrapped down to the tissue paper, so there is more learning and life to be received from the Lord.

We receive the Holy Spirit through Jesus. What a wonderful gift of life Jesus gave to us by coming to earth as a baby human being.

Thank you, Lord, for your wonderful gift of life.

© 2013 Mary Burkey

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Sixth Day of Christmas: Six Geese

How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good tidings, who publishes peace, who brings good tidings of good, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, "Your God Reigns."  Isaiah 52:7 (RSV)

"Honk, Ho-o-nk, Hahnk!" That unmistakable sound makes me look skyward to enjoy the peaceful sight of Canada Geese flying, leaves falling, and sunset descending. Even on gray days when the geese are hidden by fog or low clouds, their persistent voices signal their tenacious progress.

When they gather fro take off, the cacophony of sound incites laughter and thoughts of angels with sore throats. But just at the moment of lift off, all talking ceases and the only sound is that of strong wings rapidly pounding the wind while unyielding bodies fight to ascend. Messengers with bulky bodies, their "V" formation is a visual and audible announcement that winter comes quickly--along with thoughts of Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Since the days of creation, Canada Geese have been nature's heralds of God's handiwork; however, God's eternal messengers only spoke to Bethlehem's shepherds once. And upon hearing the good tidings, these herdsman probably ran pell mell to see the One who would be Salvation, the one who would reassure mankind that our God Reigns. Amidst the soft baas of sheep, pigeon coos, and cattle lows, they found the Promised One, the Messiah.

We know the shepherd's story because they told somebody who told somebody who eventually told Luke. In turn, Luke told all readers and hearers of the Gospel. Now, it is our turn to spread the news. Like awkward geese, we become heaven's messengers telling, shouting, singing, "Our God reigns. Salvation has come. The Babe is born."

Lord, Thanks for sending Salvation. Help us to also tell others, "Our God reigns." Amen

(c) 2013   Virginia Colclasure

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Fifth day of Christmas: Better than gold!

In these troubled times, run to the One who is Faithful and True - our Lord! Revelation 19:11 (NIV). In the Old Testament, God says He’s our Husband. Isaiah 54:5 (NIV). God wears his fidelity toward us like a golden wedding ring, and the Holy Bible is His love letter to each of us! 

The Pentateuch comprises God’s first five love letters. Known for His extravagance, it’s not enough that He’s espoused to us. In Genesis, He’s also our Parent. With great joy, God prepares the nursery for His first child, Adam. Where we might go out and buy cribs, rocking chairs, and wallpaper for our baby’s nursery, God went out and set up oceans, mountains, and forests for His first child. Oh Master of Quantity!

When Adam sinned, his Father went to him. God wants us to apologize when we hurt Him then be restored to our high-quality relationship with Him. Oh Master of Quality!

The Pentateuch tells us about miracles, the Law, promises, and the Promised Land. Parents, have your children ever persuaded you to change your mind? Of course they have, and God can relate. He changed His mind when Moses asked Him not to destroy those wayward Hebrews. Exodus 32:14 (NIV).

Parents, have you ever punished your child then later gave in because you just couldn’t help yourself? God can relate to that one too. Remember when Moses was denied entry into the Promised Land? It turns out Moses did set foot in the Promised Land. Amazingly, Peter saw Moses and Elijah talking with Jesus one day on the mountain. Luke 9:30-33 (NIV).

Lord, Your friendship is more valuable to me than five thousand golden rings!  Amen.

©2013 Mary Logan

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Fourth Day of Christmas: Four Calling Birds

Jesus began to preach, “Repent the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matt. 4:17b (NKJV)
Paralyzed, I awoke on the operating table, and heard doctors’ talking - then pain pierced me. My mind screamed, Stop. I’m awake! They were cutting me. The excruciating pain came in heavy waves, cutting and stabbing over and over. Stop, I can feel that! Each pain wave came harder and more intense than the last.
Unvoiced screams echoed in my brain. Stop!
Then I heard, “Her blood pressure’s dropping.”
 “We’re losing her.”
It was too late. The pain left abruptly. I died.
I watched, from above the operating table, as the doctors worked on me. The Holy Spirit joined me, saying “It’s okay to die.”
My worries fell free, like unshackled chains. 
A warm soft grey air surrounded me. Beautiful peace flooded my soul and unimaginable, undisputable love blanketed me. There was only peace, sweet peace. I did not want to leave. My past life sped by as a high-speed movie. As I watched all the hard times, tears came with each beating and merciless event.
“Stop crying.” The Holy Spirit commanded. “It’s time to go back. Be joyful.” The Holy Spirit flooded me with joy that overwhelmed me. Tears ceased.
 “This is a gift to you.”
I longed to stay, to follow through to the Light.
He said, “Jesus is the Light of the world. You must go back. You have things to do and people to tell.”  
* * *
            “Lois. Wake up!” Someone kept flicking my index finger, calling my name.
            The four calling birds represent the four Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, announcing the Good News. God has come to earth. Accept. Believe. Live it. I was sent back to tell you.

Thank You, Lord, for making yourself known to me, for using me to tell the fallen world.
©Lois Gosley 2013

Monday, December 16, 2013

The third day of Christmas: Three French Hens

And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity. 1 Corinthians 13:13 (KJV)

While on vacation many years ago, I took pictures of the prettiest chickens that I had ever seen.  It was not until I was researching the Twelve Days of Christmas song that I realized that they were French hens. The French hen is one of the most colorful of chickens.

In the Twelve Days of Christmas song, these chickens by some accounts represent the three theological virtues: faith, hope and love. These are the foundations of a Christian life. Without having faith in Jesus, how can we have hope in this world and love others?

Throughout the holiday season we receive many gifts. My favorites are the ones that my family and friends take the time to make. You will see several ornaments on my tree that were made by my children and friends to express their love. There is a lot of love hanging on the tree.

Jesus came to earth to give His life so that we will hope in a lost and dying world.  With the birth of Jesus we received the gift of hope. With this gift of hope we also received the gift of love, the greatest of all gifts.

Love is not always easy to give. Resentments, hurts and past mistakes bind the love in our hearts toward others. When we break those bonds with the help of Jesus, we are free to love and receive love.

This year I want to focus on Jesus. I want my life to be as colorful as those French hens with the right amount of faith, hope and love. I want love to be the brightest of all.

Thank you, Jesus, for giving the greatest gift of all love.

Dawn Sexton © 2013

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Second Day of Christmas: Two Turtledoves

They brought Him (Jesus) up to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord…and to offer a sacrifice…a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons. Luke 2:22b, 24 (NASB)

Climbing to the upper level of Grandpa’s barn, my cousin and I were excited because we had never been that high before. As I turned around, I noticed a nest with two tiny birds. We called down to tell Grandpa, but he warned us,

“Don’t touch those baby turtledoves or their mother will not take care of them. They will die.”

Later, Grandpa explained that if our human scent contaminated the baby birds, their mother would abandon them and they would starve to death.

As I reflect upon that childhood memory, I am reminded that Jesus left the perfection of heaven to be born into our fallen, human world. Under the Law, every firstborn male baby was called holy to the Lord and a sacrifice of a pair of turtledoves or pigeons was to be offered.
How ironic that my human touch would result in the death of the baby turtledoves I found, but turtledoves were offered as a sacrifice for the baby Jesus.

The Old Testament sacrificial system required that sacrifices be made repeatedly for the sins of the people. But in the New Testament Jesus shed His blood as the final sacrifice for our sins and ushered in the new covenant. There is no longer a need for the shedding of the blood of birds and animals because Jesus’ sacrifice satisfied God’s anger toward our sins. We have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. When He touches us, we come to life.

Father, as we celebrate Jesus’ birth, may we remember His sacrifice for us.

© 2013 Diane E. Hussey


Saturday, December 14, 2013

The Twelve Days of Christmas: A Partridge in a Pear Tree

The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. Psalm 9:9 (NIV)

Most sources classify the song, The Twelve Days of Christmas as a “counting rhyme” while others note that the song was originally written for Christians to secretly practice their faith during a time of persecution. Although there was no documented evidence to support the “persecuted Christians” account, the mere mention warrants attention. Historically, secret coded songs were used by persecuted people including Christians as well as African-American slaves to share messages and warnings. In The Twelve Days of Christmas, the “hidden message” is observed in the first line which everyone remembers:

 On the first day of Christmas my true love sent to me a partridge in a pear-tree;

Since the twelve days of Christmas end with Epiphany, it was natural to reflect on the unfamiliar symbolization of a very familiar song. In the “persecuted Christians” account, “my true love” is identified as God—not an earthly love—-while the "me" represents every Christian. It was proclaimed on the first of twelve days that a gift had been received from “my true love”. The gift, “a partridge in a pear tree” symbolizes Jesus Christ, a gift worthy of the “first” proclamation and the repeated mentions throughout the song.

Although the “persecuted Christians” account may not depict the actual origin of The Twelve Days of Christmas, the symbolization reminds us of God’s greatest gift: His Son, Jesus Christ. The symbolization also reminds us that many Christians must worship in secret because they are still persecuted for their Christian beliefs and practices especially during the Christmas season.    
Almighty Father, I pray for our Christian brothers and sisters who are displaced, imprisoned and persecuted.

© 2013 Sally S. Cherry

Friday, December 13, 2013

Our God Forgives

Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. Psalms 51:2 (NKJV)

I have a little Chihuahua named Bitsy who loves rolling in the grass. Every month I bathe her. After I dry her off, she usually lays in the sun that comes in the open door. Sometimes she begs to go out. Believing that she has to do her business, I let her go. After five minutes I call to her. One bath day, when I called her back inside, she slinked in and jumped into her favorite chair, hunkering as low as possible. I went to her, wondering if something was wrong. She didn't need to tell me. My nose sensed the answer. She found the foul spray some animal left behind. Bitsy rolled in it, rubbing it into her hair and skin. Her slinking told me she knew she had done something wrong, but she just couldn't help herself. Why did it have to be just five minutes after I bathed her?

We children of the Most High act much like Bitsy. When we sin, our conscience causes us to "slink," knowing we have done wrong. We ask God's forgiveness, and He is kind and gracious to forgive our trespasses. Over time we grow lax in our relationship with our Lord and find ourselves in sinful situations. Like Bitsy, we know we sin, so we ask God's forgiveness. He washes our iniquities. Bitsy repeated her unpleasant actions on many occasions, but I love her. Like our Father in heaven, I forgive her and wash her again. I am so glad we have a loving, forgiving Father who willingly washes us free of sin time and time again.

Father, draw me close to You so that I may not stray far from Your love and forgiveness. Amen

(c) 2013 E. Bonnie Ryan

Sunday, December 8, 2013

He's Only Ten?

Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, life, in love, in faith and purity.  1Timothy 4:11-12 (NIV)
      David needed a stepstool so he could look over the top of the pulpit and see his audience.
      “Good morning,” he said, “My name is David and I am the Junior Pastor. As many of you know, I plan to take Pastor Bruce’s job in about twelve years.”
      The congregations laughed.
      David continued, “I am ten right now so I have time to get ready for the job. I listen to Pastor Bruce and follow him around. The main thing I have learned is that it’s hard to be a pastor. There is a lot of work behind the scenes that most people don’t know about. He’s always available when someone needs him. He works long hours. We all know about those birthday calls he makes.”
      Almost everyone smiled.
      Then, David got serious with his audience. “I think I know the hardest part of being a pastor—that is people don’t listen.”
       David followed this statement with a list of Pastor Bruce’s past exhortations that he believed congregants had not taken to heart.
       Then he said, “Raise your hand if you brought a friend to church with you today.”  David paused.  “We have heard Pastor Bruce explain that it is the job of each of us to bring people to God.  Today is Pastor Appreciation Sunday. Let’s honor our pastor by bringing a friend to church each time we can—maybe every Sunday. That’s the way the great commission works.”
Lord, thank you for raising up a modern day David who chooses to serve you at such a young age. Bring us more Davids.

© Christy Struben 2013