Esteem His Name

Then those who feared the Lord spoke to one another, and the Lord gave attention and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the Lord and who esteem His name. Malachi 3:16

It seemed a bit colder this morning and the room was a bit brighter. Had it snowed overnight? Had my wish for a white Christmas come true? I scrambled out of bed, threw back my window curtain to see a white frosty yard with the sunbeams shining through the branches. Smoke wafted across the rooftop, puffing from the red brick chimney. It did not snow, yet the white frosted yard hinted towards a white Christmas and I was still filled with joy and expectation.

I entered the hallway and heard voices chattering from the kitchen. Mom and Dad were awake and were making breakfast. Dad was frying the bacon and mom was at the oven pulling out the quiche. The tasty scents swiftly caused my tummy to gurgle and I could not wait to have breakfast then open our presents. Mom had set the table and glasses were filled with orange juice and sparkling apple juice were in the tall skinny glasses. Christmas music was playing softly in the background and I was filled with excitement as I wondered what was in the packages labeled with my name.

Is there a gift that you have been hoping for that you can not wait to open today? I do hope that your day is filled with joy and happiness. There is one gift that we all have been given and it is the reason that we celebrate Christmas:

For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that everyone who believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

“Behold, the virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call Him Immanuel” (which means, “God with us”). Matthew 1:23

For unto us a Child was 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. Isaiah 9:6

Today in the City of David a Savior has been born to you. He is Christ the Lord! Luke 2:11

To open this special gift and receive the Savior, all you need to do: “That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.” Romans 10:9-10

Prayer: Dear Lord, thank you for sending your Son for all to see and celebrate on this special day. May all eyes and hearts be open to what this day truly means. May many be saved and encouraged by your Word. In Jesus’ precious name. Amen.

For further reading: Malachi 3

The Light of Christmas

Jesus spoke to the people, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life” John 8:12

Christmas traditions can be so much fun and come in a variety of packages. My family loved special holiday movies, decorating the tree, and attending church programs and plays. Another favorite tradition was looking at light displays. One neighborhood in particular, “Peacock Lane”, went all out during the Christmas season to bring more light and joy to the city.

My family would get all bundled up with heavy coats and hats, because “Peacock Lane” had to be experienced first hand, that meant one must walk through the neighborhood.

Upon arriving, we were bombarded with happy chaos. People strolling down the sidewalks, talking and laughing. Christmas music playing from individual homes, while people sang along and children ran about in excitement. And of course there were the beautiful lights. Each home had gone out of their way to express their creativity of the season. Peacock Lane was truly one of our favorite traditions.

The lights of Christmas point to Christ our Savior. For He is the light of the world that leads us to eternal life. When we follow Jesus and believe He is the Son of God, we too, carry the light of Christ in our hearts.

Jesus told His followers, “You are the light of the world.” (Matthew 5:14)

So what are we to do with this light? “Let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your Heavenly Father.” (Matthew 5:16)

Make your own special Christmas traditions this year and let the light of Christ shine brightly in all you do.

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for sending your Son to earth, to save us and to bring us hope of one day living with you forever in heaven. A place where there is no death or sickness, no evil or corruption. Help us to be that light to a dark world, so that more people may experience the true light of Christmas, which is Jesus Christ our Lord. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

For further reading: Matthew 5

Comforting Light

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“Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.”     Psalm 119:105

“For thou wilt light my candle: the LORD my God will enlighten my darkness.” Psalm 18:28

 

I love candles. I enjoy entering a store with all types of candles and opening the lids to breathe in warm vanillas, sweet pears and apples, and comforting fireside smells. Currently, I sit beside a cleverly named candle, frosted cranberry, crafted with cedarwood and orange essential oils. Its scent brings a sense of peace, tranquility, and focus.

Yet, nothing compares to the peace, tranquility and focus that God’s Word gives to me each time I read it. His Word is the sweetest fruit, the brightest fire, the straightest laid path.

Each day, each morning is an opportunity for us to open His Word and breathe in and savor His Words while lingering in His message. His message lights our way and gives loving instructions for every area in our life to bring us out of the darkness and into His loving, comforting light. 

Prayer: Lord, thank you for your Word. Thank you that when we seek you, you light our candle bringing warmth and comfort to our days and light for our path. May we be able to study your Word day and night, so that we focus on you to guide our day and rest in you when we slumber. In your precious Son’s name, Jesus. Amen. 

For further reading: Psalm 18

God Is All Powerful

3c6385e3-d344-4480-93f1-7d78312f1cd1 He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful and so that you might always fear the Lord your God.   Joshua 4:24

The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.”  Jeremiah 31:3

One fall day my sister was babysitting her grandkids. She got a call from her son-in-law saying, he would be passing through their little city of Milwaukee, and he wanted them to come out to see him. The girls were six and three years old at the time

Jason, the children’s father was a conductor for the Railroad, he wanted his girls to see him at his job as he came through town. So, my sister threw the kids in the car and raced to downtown Milwaukee. They parked right by the track so they could see him and waited for the train to pass by.

After about ten minutes of anxiously waiting, they began to hear a train in the distance. It was coming closer, getting louder, and louder. And even though the girls were excited to see their daddy, they became afraid of the great noise and power that was heading their way. They ran back to the car, and jumped in, shaking with excitement and fear. Even my sister said, she felt intimidated as the train drew closer, and closer.

Soon the huge train was in sight, barreling toward them, the ground was shaking, and the noise was so intense the girls covered their ears and their heads in awe. But as they looked up, at that big, monstrous, train,… just about upon them,… they could see their daddy, standing on the outside rail of the big engine. He had his overalls on and his conductor cap and a big smile on his face, waving to his girls. They squealed with delight and waved back, just as hard as they could.

Our God is mighty and powerful and awe-inspiring, just like that train. But just like Jason, the father of two little girls that he loves, God our Heavenly Father also loves and adores us, His children.

Prayer: Thank you Father, that you are strong and able to powerfully create and maintain everything on earth, including us. And thank you Father, that you are approachable and loving to your weak and needful children. I’m so glad you have both these characteristics. What a perfect Father you are. I love you Lord, amen.

Simple Christmas Joys

You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever. Psalm 16:11

Instead of sleeping, my sister and I lay in our beds talking about the fun we had making sugar cookies with our mom that afternoon. Bells, trees, ornaments and snowmen had been carefully cut out and joyfully decorated. We even got to sample a few.

Our room was filled with a soft light, for the shade was up on our window. We wanted to watch the gently falling snow outside. Big white fluffy flakes continued to drift down from heaven, landing on our windowsill and the trees and bushes outside.

Sleep continued to elude us as the beautiful winter scene began to beckon us to come take a closer look. We climbed out of our cozy beds and tiptoed barefoot across the cold wood floor to the window. Pushing up the heavy pane, we reached our hands out into the night to catch some snowflakes, then began to nibble on the snow that had accumulated on our windowsill. Oh what a joyous night it was!

Thinking back through childhood Christmases, I know I received many wonderful gifts over the years, yet I can’t seem to remember them very well.

What I do remember is the joy I felt in the simple things of the Christmas season. A warm and cozy house in the middle of a snowstorm. Spending time with my beloved big sister and my momma, being silly and creative as we made and ate sugar cookies, and the sweet stolen moments of eating snow from our bedroom window.

This Christmas take a moment to slow down and appreciate the sweet joys of simple moments. A thoughtful Christmas card, hot chocolate with your dear friend, music that fills your soul with longing for your Savior Jesus and maybe even a nighttime walk where you can catch a couple snowflakes.

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for simple pleasures, they make life so sweet. They remind us to be thankful people and to appreciate all the beautiful gifts you send us. We love you Lord. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

For further reading: Luke 2

Great Things

When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dreamed. Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.” The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy. Psalm 126:1-3

The holidays can either spin you into a stressful tizzy with money, food, wrapping paper, ribbons and tinsel a flying! Or, it brings your inner child out filled with awe and wonder as you unwrap your favorite nativity scene, observe your neighbors’ pretty lights and decorations, and see the kindness and joy shining in those around you.

Perhaps, you have family traditions that you look forward to that bring you and your family closer. Maybe, it is the way in which you celebrate advent; reading the story of Jesus, memorizing scripture, lighting candles, praying for others and celebrating one another for who God has created! For others, it may be singing Christmas carols and watching great Christmas movies and laughing big jolly laughs that spark your endorphins! Or, making new traditions while laughing and eating more candy than you used to decorate your gingerbread houses!

All of these are great things, yet remember that this time of year is for us to turn our hearts toward the precious baby Jesus that came to seek and save the lost and to give the greatest gift of all: a rich and satisfying life (John 10:10). Let our mouths be filled with laughter and our tongues singing songs of joy sharing the love of Jesus while we look forward to our life with Him in Heaven; where the joy of Christmas will be celebrated forever! (For more on that topic, see Linda’s great devotion Waiting for Jesus.)

Be encouraged!

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, what great news we have to celebrate and share! May our hearts be softened and our eyes opened to see how we can spread your loving kindness to all. Thank you for all the great things you have done for us and the greatest gift of all, Jesus! Amen

For further reading: John 10

God’s Word and Love Endure Forever

“The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.” Isaiah 40:8

“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever.” Psalm 136

In the early 1900s, my dad’s grandfather bought the Virginia farm pictured above. On the property is a historic home built in 1790. Over the hundreds of years, many lives have come and gone, withered and fallen. What did their day look like? Perhaps, after a long day of farming, by candlelight, they read the Bible and learned of the love of Jesus, His wisdom for daily living and placed their trust in Him.

I’m so thankful that I have the enduring Word of God to read, glean, be instructed and encouraged by especially on difficult days. I have felt like withering grass and that my petals are falling off. I’ve been distressed by those hurting around me (Romans 12:15). I’ve cried out to God to help me be stronger to be able to encourage them. Yet, it’s difficult to encourage when you yourself feel discouraged.

Unfortunately, discouragement can keep us from God. The further away from God we become, the easier it is for sin and discouragement to fill the void. Our lives, like the grass, withers. It is at times like this, that I choose to soak in God’s Word. I don’t just sip on His water, I gulp it in. His word is refreshing and renewing, healing and energizing (Psalm 51:10 and Colossians 3:10).

No matter what circumstances we are facing, let’s not forget that God’s Word and love endures forever.

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, You are the only One who can truly give life. I am so thankful for those You placed in my life to lead me to You. Bless their lives and if any shall have withered, renew them to continue encouraging others. Please help us all to be courageous encouragers. It is by Your love and strength alone that I write. May it be honoring to You and encouraging to those who read this. In Jesus’ precious name. Amen.

Waiting For Jesus

For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the Archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words. 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18

Waiting for Christmas day was excruciating when I was a child. My siblings and I knew the joy that awaited us and we would often recount them to each other in the month of December.

We would wake up early, eager to begin the day with a few special gifts before our Christmas breakfast of scrambled eggs and warm cinnamon rolls. However we were not allowed downstairs until our father knew the time was just right. At his signal we would burst upon the scene in our living room and then stand transfixed as we gazed at the splendor before us.

The beautifully lit tree, the smell of fresh evergreen boughs and the many sparkling presents held us in silence and awe for at least 10 seconds. Then the thrill and excitement of the day would overcome us, as we began to laugh and talk and dance around the room. Oh what a day it would be!

Extended family would arrive, and the game playing would begin. From board games to cards, we loved them all. After a wonderful early dinner we would gather around the tree to open gifts. This was a slow process as each person’s gift was recognized and appreciated by all.

But truly the greatest gift of the day was just being together with loved ones and celebrating the birth of our Savior Jesus.

Waiting for Christmas day is just like waiting for Jesus to return. We know there is great joy ahead for us, but we must wait until our Heavenly Father deems the time is right. At His signal we will burst upon the splendor of heaven and stand in awe and silence as we gaze upon the beauty of our Savior Jesus.

Then we will begin to laugh and talk and dance as extended loved ones also arrive. The Lord will recognize each one of us and reward us for the good that we have done while on earth.

And the greatest joy of heaven will be abiding in the presence of the Lord and with our family and loved ones forever. In heaven, Christmas day will never end.

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, oh what a great day that will be, when we arrive in heaven! Help us encourage each other while we wait, and remember the great joys that lay ahead for us. We love you Lord. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

For further reading: 1 Thessalonians 4

We are God’s Purposeful Masterpiece

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. Ephesians 2:10

Several years ago I had the chance to travel to Chicago with my husband on two separate business trips. Each time, I visited a new section of the city; the zoo, the shops in the city, the river, and the pier. However, on both occasions, I absolutely had to go to the Art Institute of Chicago.

I have studied classic artists as well as dabbled in creating fine arts myself. I can analyze art for hours especially scenes that invite me into their world such as Georges Seurat A Sunday on La Grande Jatte as seen above. I have always been so curious as to why there is a monkey with the dogs. Did Seurat actually see a pet monkey or did he add that in for viewers to pause and wonder?

At first glance, one might not think the artwork is extraordinary, yet if you look closely at the original, the viewer will see layers of lines and dots in complementary colors that create the shapes of the people, animals, and nature. Each dot or stroke of the brush was purposely positioned.

We have a loving Creator who carefully designed his people. To others, we might seem ordinary, yet through Him, we are a masterpiece created to do good things that bring honor to Him. Like being kind and loving to one another, sharing each other’s burdens, and praying for those who do not yet know Him.

Take a moment to pray for someone and thank God for the wonderful masterpiece that they are!

May you be blessed by the Lord, who made heaven and earth! Psalm 115:15

Prayer: Dear Lord, I look around and see many hurting people. They need you, Lord. May many see the Truth this season as we celebrate the birth of Christ, who came to save all. In His precious name, Jesus. Amen.

For further reading: Ephesians 2

Coming Home

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So, he returned home to his father, and while he was still a long distance away, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion he ran to his son embraced him and kissed him. Luke 15:17

The autumn season with all its beautiful changing colors, makes me think of apple cider, foggy mornings, jean jackets, pumpkin spice lattes and coming home. When I was in college I loved to come home in the fall. Being away meant constant new challenges; educationally and spiritually, and by the end of my first month at college I felt drained and lonely (even though I was surrounded by people). Coming home reminded me, who I was and who loved me.

I heard a story about a farmer whose son went off to college. The father was concerned about the atheistic teaching his son would be exposed to while there and sure enough when his son returned home for a visit he was struggling with his faith in God.

As they were conversing one day under an oak tree, the son suddenly blurted out, “Dad, I just can’t believe in God anymore. Why, look at those pumpkins over there on the ground. They are big and heavy yet have small and tender vines.”

“But, this big oak tree, capable of supporting the weight of the pumpkins, only produces teeny acorns. If there really was an intelligent God of this universe, he would’ve placed the pumpkins on this oak tree, and the teeny acorn on the fragile vine.”

Suddenly an acorn fell from the tree, bouncing lightly off the top of the young man’s head. As the truth slowly dawned, he sheepishly spoke, “Dad, thank God that was not a pumpkin.”

Throughout our lifetime we have moments when we question God. Are you real Lord? Do you care for me? We have periods of time we walk in the ways of the world, like the prodigal son, separated from his father by sin.

Whatever it may be, I urge you to come home to God today. Seek His presence, His forgiveness, His love and companionship. Get a hot spiced pumpkin latte and sit down with your Heavenly Father for a nice visit. He’s waiting for you to come home.

Prayer: I miss you Father. I want to come home to stay. I love you. Amen.