Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New Year......


I’m sure you are all anticipating the new year just around the corner.  You are probably thinking of what to wear tonight and where you are going to be when the clock strikes midnight.  I want to share one more thought for you as you prepare to make changes for a new year:

Try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord.  Take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness; instead rebuke and expose them.  It is shameful even to talk about the things that ungodly people do in secret.  But when the light shines on them, it becomes clear how evil these things are.  
Ephesians 5:10-13

A couple years ago I ran across this scripture and it had always made me wonder to just what extent this means.  Obviously acting ungodly and participating in immoral acts is shameful.  Choosing to do things that are sinful is clearly against the commands of God but have you ever taken that thought deeper to just thinking about or talking about sinful things?  I have to admit I have participated in immoral acts in my past and even more, I have talked about immoral things way too many times to count.  

Part of being Christian is our desire to change and become Christ-like.  When I really decided to change my life, among other things, I knew that part of that change included the conversations I participated in.  I love to joke and have a good laugh and I am guilty of saying things that are not anything you would hear coming from Christ’s mouth.  No, I’m not just talking about swear words......that is one thing I am pretty good at avoiding, it is the course jokes that might come up at a friendly get together.  It is joining in on a conversation that God would not approve of.  Since that very vivid morning when I woke up determined to change my life I have been working very hard on this very scripture.  I have not perfected it yet but I pray that my friends are seeing a change in me.  More importantly, that change, that refusal to talk about certain things, is shining light on the topic or conversation at hand.  Maybe not right away, but over time, His light will make it clear that those stories and those conversations are not acceptable to God nor in the life of a follower of Christ.  

What do you talk about in the dark?  What kind of movies do you watch?  What kind of books do you read?  What kind of internet sites do you frequent?  Yes, I don’t doubt for a moment that the things we watch and read are things that we don’t necessarily agree with, believe in, or physically participate in.  What worries me is that we are putting that dark, sinful stuff into our minds!  We shouldn’t even think about sinful things, we shouldn’t give them the time of day!  I learned in a devotion that once we laugh at something we are making ourselves vulnerable to compromising our faith.  Every time we compromise just a little bit for this sin or that law we break down our belief and our morals weaken just a little bit more.  For example, if I joke about casual, unmarried, immoral sex and watch it on television and in the movies, after a while I won’t think a thing about it. Sex will be cheapened and it will no longer be sacred.  It’s not enough to know it is wrong.......we have to live like it’s wrong.  When we are against something, we shouldn’t want anything to do with it.....that includes talking about it.     

While you are thinking of a new years resolution I hope that you will take into account the message I have shared with you today.  I hope that you will look closely upon your life and the things you talk about and participate in.  I hope that you will consider finding out what is pleasing to the Lord.  I pray that you can see His words in front of you and realize the importance of eliminating small compromises regarding God’s commands.  God loves us and He has dreams of us all growing closer to Him this year.  Please take this scripture and apply it to your life.  Stand resolute in the ways of the Lord!  Watch your life change and your relationship with Christ grow deeper. 

Monday, December 30, 2013

Thanks And Prayer


We are 2 days away from 100 blog posts!  We are so thankful for your support and we are so thankful for God’s work in our lives.  God has laid you on our hearts.  When we got the idea to write this blog you were first on our minds.  We have a deep desire to be honest and real with you.  We want you to hear our personal struggles and stories and learn from them.  We love to share what we learn from the bible and the things that God has taught us.  We are in constant prayer for the words and stories that God lays on our hearts.  We never want to misinterpret scripture, nor do we ever want us to shine through the stories.  God is first on our minds always when preparing a blog and it is so important to us that you see His hand and His words on every page.

We have no idea who you are or the kind of relationship you had with Jesus before you started reading this blog.  Actually, it doesn’t really matter, we are just concerned that where ever you started you have grown from there.  We hope that you are growing closer to God and that you are learning to have a more meaningful relationship with Him.  We hope that we have stressed the importance of reading your bible and that you have made a decision to read more or maybe you have found an accountability partner whom you can share with.  We leave you with these words from Paul because they so accurately portray the way we feel about you and pray for you daily.  Keep up the great work!  Keep putting God First in your life.         

When I think of the wisdom and scope of God’s plan, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth.  I pray that from His glorious, unlimited resources He will give you mighty inner strength through His Holy Spirit.  And I pray that Christ will be more and more at home in your hearts as you trust in Him.  May your roots go down deep into the soil of God’s marvelous love.  And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love really is.  May you experience the love of Christ, though it is so great you will never fully understand it.  Then you will be filled with the fullness of life and power that comes from God.  
Ephesians 4:14-19
Amen and Amen!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Don't Run


What I do, God, is wait for you, wait for my Lord, my God - and You answer - I’ll never let you down, never walk off and leave you.
taken from Psalm 38:15 and Hebrews 13:5

It is so comforting to know that God will never walk off and leave us.  How many times have you wanted to walk away from someone or something in your life?  Did that person come looking for you?  Did that situation hunt you down and bring you back? Has anyone ever walked you through a tough circumstance?  God will do all of this, find you, guide you back and give you victory, if you will allow Him.  

Abram and Sarai decided to take matters into their own hands.  They were unable to conceive a child so Sarai decided to give her mistress, Hagar, to her husband so he could sleep with her in hopes of giving him a child.  (Why on earth they didn’t think that one through is beyond me.)  Of course, the two conceived a child which caused tensions to flare.  Sarai was angry at Abram and jealous of Hagar and began making her life miserable.  Hagar could not take the abuse and she ran away.  (Genesis 16)

We have all been there.  All of us have felt like running away from something or someone in our life.  I have left.  I have walked right out of a room avoiding the pain and conflict I knew would come if I stuck around.  I have run from people in my life who hurt me.  I have also run from my faith.  When it was harder to stand firm in my belief I ran and compromised.  In fact, as I type this, I want to run.  I had this blog near completion, all typed and ready to post before I erased it from my computer without saving it......yes, I could easily run away right now.  We are all familiar with circumstances that make us want to give up.  Like Hagar, who was facing emotional abuse, we have all been in a situation that got too hard to live with.             

If we don’t ask God what he wants us to do in these tough circumstances and we decide to run, I’m telling you now, He will find us and send us back.  God doesn’t want us running without first consulting Him!  In most situations, He doesn’t want us running at all.  God did not create us to run from our problems unless that problem is our own sin, of course.  Instead, God urges us to go to our problem, stand up to it, and face it head on.  God is our strength in times of trouble and when we are in a situation, such as Hagar, He expects us to trust Him enough to endure.  He says to submit to our troubles. 

Then the Angel of the Lord said, “Return to your mistress and submit to her authority.”
 Genesis 16:19 

How could anyone possibly submit to the very person who is condemning her?   By closing her thoughts to a worldly answer, and loving like God, Hagar was able to return and withstand her abuse.  When we claim God’s perspective towards people and life’s situations then we are able to see past the hurt and the mistreatment.  We better understand that our fight is not with flesh but with the unseen dark rulers of evil (Ephesians 6:12).  When this is our perspective we can love those who hurt us and pray for them, even submit to them when appropriate.  In a relationship with God we begin to understand that we are not ever alone, we can stay around and do the godly thing, or  stand up to that illness with a positive attitude.  When temptations arise, instead of running from our faith, we can stand against the sin that compromises that faith.  God wants complete trust from us to stand up to our problems with confidence that He is standing there with us, even holding us up in the really hard times.  

Dear God,  please bless my friends who are going through tough circumstances right now.  Give power and confidence to my friends who are ready to give up.  Lord, call out to them and show them where to go.  Help them to hear your voice.  Teach us how to stand up to those who hurt us and protect our hearts from the pain of emotional abuse.  God we need you to share your perspective and show us how to love like you do.  Thank you for always being by our side.  You will never leave us but give us the strength to stay and love.......the strength to fight that illness.......the strength to endure long suffering.  God you are our strength in times of suffering and we will not run without first consulting you......without first waiting on you and listening to your voice.  In Jesus Name, Amen and amen. 

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Prepare for a Miracle… Speak Life into Your Situation

As our blog shared yesterday, God is the God of miracles. It is our response to his word that allows us to see the miracle and prepare for its arrival. Today I have had the words “speak life” running through my mind since about 1:00 pm. It’s now 12:41 am and the words keep circling in my brain. 

Circumstance can so easily overpower our thoughts and attitudes. Praising God is the key to opening our circumstance to receive God’s presence. But it is our words, attitudes and prayers for others that speak life into a dark and lifeless situation. (Yes, I’m speaking to you with a convicted heart.) 

We must learn to speak God’s word into our situations and into others’ lives. 
See, God cannot go back on his word. His word is truth, and it cannot be changed. It holds power and purpose. In speaking scripture back to God we affirm his commitment to what he has said he will do. We also claim the words as truth and place our trust in God to carry out his spoken word with action. We are preparing the way for the miracle to happen.

So is my word that goes out from my mouth. It will not return to me empty but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. Isaiah 55:11
and Psalm 119:160 says, “All your words are true; all your righteous laws are eternal.” Take God’s word and speak life into your loved ones and your situation. 

Here’s how you get started:
  1. Pray and read scripture concerning the situation at hand.
  2. Ask God what it is that he wants to do in the situation. What is his will, not your own agenda?
  3. Rewrite the scriptures using names and pronouns that fit the situation.

For example, when we pray for a friend who is not a believer we can pray saying, “______ is a new creation in Christ” based on 2 Corinthians 5:17.  

For the one who is struggling to overcome sin, “________ is submitted to God, and the devil flees from him/her because he/she resists him in the name of Jesus.” James 4:7


So, take time today and ask God to give you the words that will speak life into your situation. Claim them and keep them handy. Pray them often and others will soon see your strength and positive attitude even if the situation doesn’t change... you will!

Friday, December 27, 2013

Miracles Are For You


God’s miracles date way back the to beginning of time.  Throughout the months we have given many examples of God’s miracles.  Here are a few I can think of off the top of my head....The plagues that caused Pharaoh to soften and harden his heart over and over.  The parting of the Red Sea that enabled the Israelites to escape slavery in Egypt.  Joshua’s battle at Jericho.  Queen Esther’s position of saving her people.  Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego’s trip into the fiery furnace.  Daniel’s sleepover in the Lion’s den.  The list in the Old Testament, alone, could go on and on. 

It is Christmas, so obviously I have been thinking a lot about Mary’s miracle conception.  I read a great devotion today that made me think deeper into her circumstance and then I thought of my own life.  When Mary was visited by the angel and she was told that she was to be pregnant with a son right away she asked how that could be since she was a virgin.  She was a smart girl and I don’t doubt that she followed God’s will and lived a holy life, she undertsood that to have a baby she had to have relations with a man.  The angel explained to her the details of that conception and then just happened to mention that her aunt Elizabeth was 6 months pregnant, as well.  Mary knew how old her aunt was and that she was barren, apparently the angel did too which is most likely why he finished that small bit of information with: “For nothing is impossible with God” Luke 1:37

I can’t help but think that Mary was absolutely speechless after the angel left, I know I would have been.  I can just imagine the questions running through her mind.  But how did she respond?......”I am the Lord’s servant, and I am willing to accept whatever he wants.  May everything you have said come true.”  What.......Are you serious?  Just like that she believes and agrees to such a far fetched story?  She had no questions for the angel.......no disagreeing with him or long discussions as to exactly how this would all work out?  No, she agreed and believed......and she didn’t stop there.  

Mary believed in the miracles that God could perform.  Growing up she listened as her family shared the stories passed down by their ancestors.  She grew up talking about the miracles listed above.  She heard the things that were possible with God and she believed they could happen to her.  Some of us may be a lot like Mary in that we grew up hearing bible stories.  We saw pictures and sang songs about the many miracles God performed.  Even today we may share those miracles with our children and grandchildren but do we believe they can happen to us?

Mary proved her belief by altering her lifestyle to line up with God’s will for her future.  She got married and started thinking like a mother does.  She was young, had to most likely start taking life a little more seriously.  I can imagine she had to turn down many invitations to hang out with friends.  Some of those friends probably even treated her harshly and stopped talking to her all together because of the rumors that were being spread about her.  Her life had to change in order for her to accept God’s plan for her life.  Hearing God’s miracle and believing it would happen affected her life.   

Has God spoken clearly to you concerning a miracle in your life?  Has he given you a glimpse into a new future or shown you a direction He wants you to go?  Is there a miracle that you are asking of God?  Do you have a request for God, and more importantly, are you willing to change your life or perspective to allow Him to achieve it in your life?  Miracles aren’t just for people in the bible.  Miracles happen to people like you and me.  God wants to give us miracles but it is up to us to believe they can happen!  He needs us to believe Him completely and change our life so that we can receive all the blessings He has to go with that miracle.  Every day brings moments that hold big choices and important decisions.  If we ask for a miracle but don’t believe it will happen........don’t arrange our life around that belief, plan for it, look for it, act on it......the blessings won’t come.  Believing is an action.  We can’t just say we believe and leave it there.  Believing God takes commitment and courage.  Having faith in God to answer your prayers means you have to live your life like He has already answered them, thanking Him and planning for the day His answers will come.  Belief means trusting a vision He gives you and running with it.......change jobs, go back to school, build a building, write a book.  Whatever the vision or need just believe that nothing is impossible for God!  Amen and amen!!  

I love you all so much and I pray that something will change in you today.  That you will gain a new perspective and gain a faith that screams crazy to those who just don’t understand.  Take a leap of faith and believe in a much bigger God to give YOU a miracle!  

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Will You Use the Gift?

“But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15

You opened several gifts yesterday. I'm sure some thrilled you and already today you are using them. Some still require assembly. A few made you laugh. And perhaps there was one gift that you will place in a cupboard never to be seen again. You'll choose not to use it!

Christmas can be the same way. Yesterday we celebrated the birth of our Lord and Savior. A day of joy, peace and hope. Now, the challenge is put before us. Will we walk with him into the next year? Will we carry his word in our hearts and allow his Spirit to move within us? Or will we go back to life as usual? The choice is ours. 

You have unwrapped a beautiful gift over the past 12 days. Now it is time to choose whether or not you will use that gift or allow it to collect dust until next Christmas. 


Throughout this next year, we will continue to pray for your walk and can’t wait to share with you what we are learning. We also hope you will share with us! 

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!


Break open your words, let the light shine out, let ordinary people see the meaning.
Psalm 119:30


Merry Christmas Friends!
As we’ve finished unwrapping our 12 gifts of Christmas and we throw away that last bit of paper on the floor we are reminded of one last gift we have been blessed with,  The Bible.  It is a priceless book that explains, in detail, all of these gifts we have been given. If not for the bible we wouldn’t understand a thing about God or who He is.  His Word is His precious gift to us.  His word shows us His love, teaches us joy, explains real peace, demonstrates patience, and proves over and over His kindness, gentleness and goodness.  God’s word is faith lived out through the many stories it holds, it instructs us in self control, shares mercy and grace and most importantly His Word became flesh to pour out salvation on us all.  


Today is Christmas and I must leave you with the story of Jesus’ birth.  
Please break open His Word and follow along:

The Birth of Jesus Foretold (Luke 1:26-38)
26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, 27 to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David. 28 Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!”
29 Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean. 30 “Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God! 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!”
34 Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.”
35 The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God. 36 What’s more, your relative Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age! People used to say she was barren, but she has conceived a son and is now in her sixth month. 37 For nothing is impossible with God.”
38 Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” And then the angel left her.

The Birth of Jesus (Luke 2:1-20)
At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.) All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census. And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. He took with him Mary, his fiancée, who was now obviously pregnant.
And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.
The Shepherds and Angels
That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, 10 but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. 11 The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! 12 And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”
13 Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying,
14 
“Glory to God in highest heaven,
    and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”
15 When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
16 They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. 17 After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. 18 All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, 19 but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. 20 The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.

Merry Christmas from us to you!  We are blessed by the gifts God has given us, and even more, are we blessed to share them with you.  We hope that Christmas has new meaning for you this year as you reflect on the gifts He has given you.      

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Salvation

And here we are 12 days later! The final gift of Christmas is salvation! Oh, and what a wonderous gift it is! 

Salvation is the beautiful, glistening bow on top of the 11 other stacked packages. Salvation is the redemption from the powers and penalties of sin. Without His salvation, we would be doomed to eternal life in hell, literal separation from God. In his kindness, God has chosen to redeem us. A gift we can never repay.

John 2:9 tells us, “Salvation comes from the LORD.”
Acts 4:2 says, “Salvation is found in no one else.”

We must understand a few things about salvation. It is a gift. We cannot earn it, and we do not deserve it! It is a gift given to us through the sacrifice of God’s son. We must believe in and respond to Jesus as our savior. We must place our faith in him and walk in a relationship with him. This gift is kind of like one you receive on Christmas morning that is labeled, “some assembly required.” Philippians 2:12 says “to continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” It is a maturing process. 

Reflect with me for a moment on the previous 11 gifts: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, self-control, grace, and forgiveness. All of these come to us through the acceptance of Christ as savior and a continued relationship him. They are also the very nature of God. He is all these things. They make up his very being. God created us in his image, but sin has stained our lives. However, once we are called to the Lord, our response should be to mature in these exact characteristics of God. Jesus went through every trial that we face as humans. He knows first-hand how hard this life is for us and how difficult the maturing process will be, but 2 Timothy 3:15 gives us directive on how to continue maturing.  
There’s nothing like the written Word of God for showing you the way to salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. Every part of Scripture is God-breathed and useful one way or another—showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live God’s way. Through the Word we are put together and shaped up for the tasks God has for us.

It is clear that to continue maturing and working out our salvation we must be in the Bible asking questions, seeking answers and guidance, and getting to know the character of God in Jesus. As we learn just how holy He is we realize how incredibly sinful we are. But the good news is this realization leads us to feel sorry for our sins. This Godly sorrow leads to repentance. We ask for forgiveness and this leads to salvation, pardon from sin. (Paraphrased from 2 Corinthians 7:10)
When times were tough and he became discouraged, David prayed, “Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a wiling spirit to sustain me.” Ps 51:12  Life overwhelmed him causing him to lose sight of this precious gift. We too will become overwhelmed and unfocused. But we can follow David’s example and ask the Lord to restore the joy of his salvation, such a generous gift!

Dear LORD,
Help us to rid ourselves of malice, deceit, hypocrisy, and hurtful talk. Like newborn babies, make us to crave spiritual milk, so that by it we may grow up in our salvation, now that we have tasted that you, LORD, are good! (from 1 Peter 2:2)

Amen and Amen

Monday, December 23, 2013

Grace




For all have sinned; fall short of God’s glorious standard.  Yet now God in His gracious kindness declares us not guilty.  He has done this through Christ Jesus, who has freed us by taking away our sins.  
Romans 3:23-24

Jesus Christ is my saving grace.  I’m a sinner and I have fallen short of God’s standard way too many times to count.  Praise God for His gift of grace, our 11th gift of Christmas!  I have been forgiven for no other reason than His grace which blankets my life.  Yes, God’s grace is His unmerited favor on us all.  We haven’t done anything to deserve His gracious favor, He just loves us that much!  God’s grace covers my multitude of sins and it covers yours, as well.  His grace allows me to mess up over and over again.  

For a long time I was unable to open God’s gift of grace.  I knew I had it when it came to my salvation.  I knew that my belief in Christ was enough to assure me a room in heaven but I never lived under His grace when it came to sin in my life.  For years I lived under the law.  I had sin from my past that was "unforgivable" which prevented me from having a real relationship with Christ.  I was not confident in Whose I was, and I didn't understand His gift of grace.  I was always worried about the choices I made and whether or not God would approve which made me distance myself from Him and, well, that never works out.  I was stuck between grace and the law, unfortunately the law was winning.  I allowed myself to hold that gift of grace for over 30 years.  Grace gathered dust while it sat there waiting for me to rip that beautiful bow and paper off.  How hard it had to be for God to look upon me and my self inflicted suffering when all the while I had freedom right in my presence.  Shame and misunderstanding had a stronghold on me until one day when God spoke to me and His grace was no longer something I could deny. 

Sin is no longer your master, for you are no longer subject to the law, which enslaves you to sin.  Instead you are free by God’s grace. 
Romans 6:14 

One day, after prayer with my GFF's, I read His word and it just clicked.  After so many years I finally understood grace.  It wasn’t something I deserved but it was still mine.  My God gave me Jesus Christ, and my belief in Him gave me new life.  God loved me unconditionally and because of His grace I had a future with Him.   

I tore into that gift and found the most freeing feeling I had ever possessed in my life.  Joy overflowed from me, I was finally free from the law that held me back.  Living under His grace, I was free to mess up.  No longer did I have to live my life trying to make up for my sins nor worry about the sins I would commit in the future.          

God’s law was given so that all people could see how sinful they were.  But as people sinned more and more, God’s wonderful kindness became more abundant. 
Romans 5:20  

God’s grace is sufficient for all of our sins.  It covers everything.  He doesn’t just give us grace for each individual sin as it occurs but we are blanketed with grace.  There is nothing we can do that will cause us to lose His grace.  God’s grace abounds our sin, it drowns it.  Because if His grace He can look upon us.  We can be brought into His Glory and our sins are not hidden, but removed!  Our future is covered in His grace, as well!  His grace allows us to be human........to make mistakes. Through His grace we can mess up and He will be right there to forgive us when we ask.  We don't have to worry over our sin and wonder if our forgiveness has run out.

My dear, if you are living under shame, if you are living by the law and are always trying to earn forgiveness, stop holding onto His gift!    Stop oohing and ahhing over that beautiful wrapping and tear into that Gift!  Accept it with joy and be free!  This Christmas season, while you are opening gifts of all shapes and sizes, I hope that you will think of this beautiful gift as one of the most important ones you could open.  I pray for you all, that you will accept His grace and claim it in your whole life.  Grace is not just for salvation but for freedom from the law that binds you to sin.  So dust that gift off and rip into that paper!

Oh and one more very important thing........don’t be selfish with God’s grace.  Once you feel the joy it brings, you can’t possibly keep it to yourself.  Offer grace to your neighbor, your old friend, your spouse, your parent, your sibling or the annoying child who won’t stop asking to peak at the presents under the tree :)  His grace is your grace!  Pass it on!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

In His mercy God offers Forgiveness!

Forgiveness! The 10th gift of Christmas. As with all the other gifts, God has displayed his forgiveness from the very beginning. In His faithfulness, God has redeemed his children through sacrifice and blood since the original sin of Adam and Eve. Genesis 3:21 tells us that “The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.” Now we know that they were already covered because back in verse 7 scripture tells us that “they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.” God didn’t clothe them so their nakedness would be covered. He clothed them with a skin. The skin of an animal. The skin of a sacrifice which poured out blood to cover their sin before the eyes of the Lord. 

In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is NO forgiveness.” Hebrews 9:22

Without blood there would be no forgiveness. We would receive what we deserve for our sin-- eternal separation from a Holy and Just God. God cannot look upon sin. The blood covers that sin and makes a way for God to have relationship with us.

Throughout the old testament the prophets tell of Jesus’ coming as the atoning sacrifice.
All the prophets (Old Testament messengers of God’s word) testify about him that everyone who believes in him (Jesus) receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” Acts 10:43

Forgiveness comes through the blood of Christ. Jesus birth brings joy to us because it was the beginning of the fulfillment of God’s plan for our redemption through his death on the cross. We must accept Christ as the Son of God and in accepting him, we must accept the gift of forgiveness. It was offered to us before we were born. 

“In him, we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with all the riches of God’s grace.” Eph. 1:7

“For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” Col 1:13-14

“If we confess our sin, he is faithful and just to forgive our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9

Forgiveness is a gift we must choose to accept. Too many people spend their lives allowing Satan to condemn them for past sins. But Jesus’ blood was shed before you ever sinned. His love covered you before you even needed it! 

“When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us ALL our sins.” Col. 2:13

 But like all the gifts God gives us, forgiveness is a gift to be shared. And it’s one that he is very serious about us receiving and then in turn offering to others. 

“For if you forgive men their sin against you, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” 
Matt. 6:14-15 

Jesus taught us to pray saying, “Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors.” Matt. 6:12

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Eph. 4:32


Now, what about you? Are you withholding forgiveness from someone? Are you waiting on them to apologize or for their behavior to improve before you offer your forgiveness? Remember you were forgiven before you asked and while you were yet a sinner. And that is exactly how God wants you to offer this gift to others...when they don’t want or deserve it! 


Do you need to ask forgiveness from God or someone else? Don’t delay because in doing so, you are harming your own relationship with God. Accept His gift today and share it gladly with everyone, in every situation. It’s not easy, but with God all things are possible!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Self-Control


Most of us probably think of self control, in relation, to getting revenge.  My first thought when thinking of self control is keeping myself from slinging mean words at someone who has threatened me.  It is holding back from hurting someone who has hurt me.  Revenge seems like the natural response, when we are threatened, to defend ourselves.  God is telling us there is a different way to handle our problems and temptations.  He has given us a way out!  He has given us self-control!  

Dear friends, never avenge yourselves.  Leave that to God.  For it is written,
“I will take vengeance;
I will repay those who deserve it,” says the Lord.
Instead do what the Scriptures say;
“If your enemies are hungry, feed them. 
If they are thirsty, give them something to drink,
and they will be ashamed of what they have done to you.” 
Romans 12:19-20

The 9th gift of Christmas is one that God has modeled for us since the beginning of time and a characteristic of Jesus that just blows me away.  Jesus wandered in the dessert for 40 days without food and water.  In a very vulnerable moment when Jesus was starving and tired, He was tempted by satan to end all that suffering.  Jesus had the self control to stay devoted to God’s plan.  Jesus showed a ridiculous amount of self-control when he was being beaten and hung on the cross.  “The crowd watched, and the leaders laughed and scoffed, “He saved others”, they said, “let Him save himself if he is really God’s Chosen One, the Messiah.” (Luke 23:35)  How many of us would have just stuck around saying very few words while soldiers mocked us and whipped us to near death?     

Aside from getting revenge, self-control is needed to make the right decisions in life.  We have to be able to distinguish between what we know is right and what we want, which so often can be two very different things.  Even before His beating Jesus had the will power to turn Himself in.  He knew what was coming and He was still able to continue with God’s plan.  Yes, He was indeed scared and prayed very hard for the situation to change but He had the self control to walk straight into suffering and death, for us.  The beautiful thing is that from God, through the Holy Spirit, we have that same self-control.     

Jesus knew God on a very personal level and because He knew Him He could do the right thing even if it meant His own suffering.  Knowing God leads to self-control (2 Peter 1:6).  When we walk with Him, read the bible and form a relationship with Him, we get to know God and we begin to learn who He is.  The more we know God the better we understand who God wants us to be.  We learn self discipline and the ability to pursue what we know is right despite temptations from the world.  We begin training our minds to think from a godly perspective and act in a godly way even when the world says otherwise.  Through self discipline and transforming of our minds, God gives us self-control.  

God has not given us a spirit of fear, and timidity but of power, love, and self-discipline.    
     2 Timothy 1:7

Self-control is the ability to control oneself, in particular one’s emotions and desires, especially in difficult situations.  Along with His gift of self-control, God also gives us free will.  He has allowed us to make our own choices.  God will never make us choose Him or His commands but He has given us the Holy Spirit which, if we allow, gives us the power to have self-control and make decisions that are pleasing to God.  

And we are instructed to turn from godless living and sinful pleasures.  We should live in this evil world with self-control, right conduct, and devotion to God.
Titus 2:12

As was mentioned yesterday....God never instructs us to do something that we aren’t capable of doing.  He would never expect us to live a life of self-control if we couldn’t do it.  If every person is capable of having self-control then it is within each of us.  It isn’t something that we have to find on our own, nor is it something that we have to display on our own power.  Self-control is possible through the help of the Holy Spirit.  Most people just don’t call on that help.  They aren’t disciplined, nor have they trained themselves to understand the power that they truly possess.  God has given us gifts that for many sit idle because we don’t accept them and we aren’t willing to use them. So from now on, if you are one of those people, ignore the word self in self-control.........don’t let it make you think it is something you must do on your own!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Great is Thy Faithfulness

As the 8th gift of Christmas God has given us the gift of faithfulness! Faithfulness is defined as constant, steadfast, loyal, and dependable. And that is just what our God is!

I cannot tell you how excited I am to get to share with you about God’s faithfulness! I am a wanderer. I have strayed from God. I have broken and pushed his loving boundaries. I have harmed his name and hurt his church. You may ask, why I would share this with you openly. I am ok with sharing because in doing so, I join a host of amazing believers who have gone before me. They too were wanderers. They were too at times, faithless. I’m not afraid to share my errors because I am repentant and redeemed. I am not afraid to tell you that I’ve strayed because the joy I’ve received in being found in God’s faithfulness is blessed. No matter where I went, God was there. He met me head on, pursued me from afar, and wooed me into his loving arms. In his faithfulness, he never left my side. That’s how he’s been from the beginning of time! It’s his very nature to be faithful. In Joshua 1:5 God says, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” If He says it, He means it! And throughout scripture he proves himself to be true.

He created Adam and Eve. They wandered. He faithfully found them. (Genesis 3)

Abraham and Sarah wandered and took matters into their own hands rather than depend on God. He faithfully found and redeemed them. (Genesis 16-20)

Moses killed a man and ran away to hide. God faithfully found and greatly used him. (Exodus 2:11-3)

Time and again you can find accounts of how humans mess up, run, and are faithfully found by God. God has known our hearts from the beginning of time. He also had a plan to help us in our faithlessness. 

See, even “if we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself. 
(2 Timothy 2:13)

At the proper time, God sent his most cherished gift to live among us. Jesus came as that beautiful, innocent babe. He came to redeem us in our wanderings. God was faithful to find us and bring us back to himself even though we were faithless. Sending Jesus was the ultimate statement of faithfulness. God will spare no expense to save his children. He will stop at nothing to find us and bring us back unto himself! 

For many of us that is hard to imagine. We’ve been abandoned by a parent or possibly by both of them. We’ve been betrayed by a spouse or had our children walk away from us.The very people we should have been able to count on have abandoned us or hurt us deeply. Our trust has been broken and learning to trust again is tough. But, God is faithful. HE WILL NOT LEAVE YOU...EVER!

Though my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will receive me. 
Psalm 27:10

Dear Lord, 
Help us to know your faithfulness. Where we have been hurt by others bring healing so that we can learn to trust in you. Forgive us for our faithlessness. We praise you for being steadfast and trustworthy. Teach us to depend on you every moment of every day. 
We love you 

Amen and Amen!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

God's Goodness


Surely Your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life. 
Psalm 23:6

I have to admit when I saw that my topic was goodness I was afraid that I wouldn’t have much to write.  Yes of course God is good but isn’t goodness the same as kindness?  I already wrote all I could on kindness, what more could I say about God’ goodness that wasn’t already mentioned on day 5?  Well, God has a different opinion and it is just amazing to see His work.  He had so much to teach me about goodness and I am blessed to get to share it with you!

Goodness is the quality of being good.  God displays this beneficial quality in His dealings with us and especially in our circumstances.  His goodness is our 7th gift of Christmas.  God is our model of moral excellency.  He made us in His image, therefore, we were engrained with this same moral compass.  This was our gift when we were first created.  But God did not stop there.  Throughout the bible there are tons of examples of God's goodness given to His people. One thing I found that most all of them have in common is that God’s goodness comes after someone messes up and/or after great suffering.  I came to understand Romans 8:28 at a deeper level today.  

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God. 
Romans 8:28

I have heard this said millions of times and I have used it to encourage my friends, as well, but today God showed me just how this works.  I learned that this promise is not for everyone but only those Who love God.  Those people who have been called by God and have received His gift of salvation through Jesus Christ.  I also thought deeply about how God actually does work things out.  Not everything in life is good but God can turn every situation around.  He has one purpose and one goal and He will always work for our long range good, not to make us happy but because He loves us and He wants us, and He will do anything to fulfill His purpose. 

Job’s life is just one example of God’s goodness.  Job was a man of God.  He trusted God and had amazing faith but he would be tested and in one day lose everything.  Job was a father and a farmer and on one dark day he lost all of his animals, and all of his children.  If that wasn’t bad enough Job was then tested with a terrible case of boils all over his body.  He remained faithful through it all and was even persecuted by his own wife.  Job suffered for months (Job 7:3) but he stayed faithful and in the end God showed Him goodness.  In the second half of his life, Job was given twice as much as in the beginning (Job 42:10-17).

Although it is difficult to see God’s goodness during the heat of a crisis, the pain of loss or in the midst of our own sin, God is still right there.  His gift of goodness wins every time.  We can’t see the goodness when we are in the middle of turmoil but when we get through the pain, when we stand behind the situation and look at where God has moved us from, it is very evident that God is good.     

The Lord replied, “I will make all my goodness pass before you, and I will call out my name, ‘The Lord’, to you.  I will show kindness to anyone I choose, and I will show mercy to anyone I choose.  But you may not look directly at my face, for no one may see me and live.”  The Lord continued, “Stand here on this rock beside me.  As my glorious presence passes by, I will put you in the cleft of the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed.  Then I will remove my hand, and you will see me from behind.  But my face will not be seen.”
Exodus 33:19-23

We may not see God’s plan while we are in the middle of a painful situation.  We can’t possibly see Him working when we are dealing with the loss of a loved one or a terminal illness.  We can’t see God’s goodness when our spouse has just left us or we have lost our job.  A fallen world gives way to fallen situations that are unexplainable, but God’s goodness will show when we look at Him from behind.  When we step back and follow Him. When we watch God work and wait on Him we will see His goodness.  In hindsight God’s goodness shines!  Don’t ever give up or run from your situation, but instead search for Him and watch Him work.  Stay there and wait to see His goodness in the end!  Like mentioned before, God's goodness isn't for everyone but for those with the faith to trust Him and follow Him.  God's goodness is evident when we believe in Who He is and in His son Jesus Christ.  Because when we believe, we can see His work.......His goodness.  

Yet I am confident that I will see the Lord’s goodness while I am here in the land of the living.  
Psalm 23:6 

Dear God,  Thank you for your gift of goodness!  Please forgive me when I am in the middle of crisis and I'm too impatient to wait on your goodness.  When I am ready to give up because I am blinded by my circumstance.  Lord open my eyes to your goodness.  I want to trust you and I want to believe that even in my darkest hours You are good.  Help me to step back and follow you.  Help me to view you from behind and to look for Your work in my life.   Your goodness and unfailing love pursue me.  I will have goodness in every situation I face!  Amen and amen!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Gentleness



The 6th gift of Christmas is gentleness. As Aimee shared yesterday, God is kind. He does things for us out of his kindness. He wants the best for us. Gentleness is however the manner in which he does them. Gentle is an adjective. It describes how actions are performed. 

In His kindness, God knew we needed a savior, so he sent us his son as an atoning sacrifice for our sin. Nothing else he could have done would exhibit more kindness. And in sending his Son, he sent us the gift of gentleness.

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Matt. 11:29

Read the encounters that Jesus had with sinners in the new testament. He is not harsh in his responses to their failures. He doesn’t condemn them, rather he forgives them and encourages them to go on about life enjoying the freedom of forgiveness. For example, in Mark 14 Jesus is not harsh with the the woman of questionable character who comes to him in Simon’s home. She is rebuked harshly by those in attendance, but Jesus says to them, “Leave her alone”. He knew her story, her past, her sin, but he also knew her heart. It mattered more! He treated her with dignity and respect. He was gentle with his words and his actions. 

Gentleness is contrary to our earthly nature. If someone yells at us, our natural response is to yell back. If someone corrects us we tend to defend ourselves or make excuses. If someone needs correcting we often ‘tell them how it is’. In his God-given wisdom, Solomon tells us that “ a gentle word turns away wrath” (Proverbs 15:1). Gentleness is evidenced in the delivery of our words and actions.It is evidenced in our response to other’s words and actions. God does not scold us when we are wrong. He does not make us feel belittled or worthless when we sin. I know this for a fact because I’ve lived it so many times. I believe the best way to show you his gentleness is to tell you my story.

Recently, God spoke conviction to my heart. If you go back to the blog entitled, “Lord, Speak Afresh,“ You will see that God was telling me I needed me to change. And here’s how he gently prompted me to do so. I was whining to God about someone in my life who was always taking and never giving.  As I literally sat in the bathroom I heard, “You’re a being a taker too.” It wasn’t an audible voice, but I knew it was God because I wouldn’t say such a thing about myself. And I knew it wasn’t satan because I didn’t feel condemned. I simply knew I was wrong, and that God wanted me to change.  God needed me to learn to praise him. I was taking more from our relationship than I was giving. Not giving him the praise and glory that he deserves is selfish and sinful of me. But because God was not harsh but rather was so gentle, I couldn’t wait to learn what he wanted me to know.

Now, if God is so gentle with us, why do we respond so harshly to others when they try to correct us? Why, if God is so gentle with us in our sin, do we deny others gentleness when they sin agains us? I believe that this verse sums it up...

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again; Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.  (Philippians 4:4-5)


Gentleness is fruit of the Spirit. It is a gift given to us to in turn be shared with others. I cannot be selfish and harsh while I am praising and rejoicing. Contradicting traits cannot be exhibited at the same time. If I’m harsh then my focus isn’t on praising God. Want to grow in gentleness, then start praising!