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CHRISTMAS DAY: The Gift of Himself

Friday, December 25, 2015

Good Morning and Merry Christmas! I understand with the dawning of Christmas Day, Advent has ended. And yet, the priceless gift, given for all, comes to us in a baby . . .

Luke 2 (New King James Version)

Christ Born of Mary

And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city.
Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered.  And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

Glory in the Highest

Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:
“ Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”

So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. Now when they had seen Him, they made widely[d] known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them.”

 

The beginning of our Savior’s life. His life begins humbly, in lowly surroundings. But His beginning did not stop in from doing anything that God had sent him to earth to do. He answered the call on His life.

 

What about you? What about me? Have we allowed our beginnings and our history to keep us from answering God’s call? If so, it’s not too late. He remains at the door, knocking. All we have to do is answer, by opening the door.

 

Abba Father, You have given your most precious, your greatest gift—Your son. He willingly came to earth and was born in a manger in a stable. What a humble beginning for the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. At the end of His life, He was victorious over all. May we, your sons and daughters, not look at our beginning or our history or even where we are today, but look to You and answer Your call. In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, I pray, AMEN and AMEN.

 

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Day Twenty-four: THE GIFT OF HIS PRESENCE

Thursday, December 24, 2015

The Gift of His Presence

 

Today is Christmas Eve and our Advent gift is the gift of His presence. What a marvelous gift!  His presence surrounds us, envelops us. The Bible says in Psalm 139 that there is nowhere we can go to get away from His presence.

Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend into heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.

 If I take the wings of the morning,
And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
Even there Your hand shall lead me,
And Your right hand shall hold me.
(emphasis mine)

Every step we take, He takes with us. Everywhere we go, everything we do, He is there. He is aware of every breath we take. He knows our thoughts. He sees our tears and hears our laughter. He knows our heart’s desires. He understands our longings and frustrations. He rejoices when we rejoice and He weeps when we weep.

God is omnipresent, and His presence is always with us and yet we continue to long for an encounter with the Presence of God. We need to experience the presence of God, we need to realize His presence.

“Practice His Presence” authored by LeeAnn Payne, is about exactly what the title says – practicing the presence of God.  One would think, as Christians, we would be aware of His presence and not have to “practice” having Him present. But that is usually not the case. We get so busy – so involved in the task of the moment – that we forget His presence. He is always here with me and with you.

“There is not in the world a kind of life more sweet and delightful, than that of a continual conversation with God. Those only can comprehend it who practice and experience it.”     … Brother Lawrence

Abba Father, thank You for the gift of Your presence. Help us to always be aware of Your presence and to walk in it. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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Day Twenty-Three: The Gift of Purpose

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you…plans to give you hope and a future.”

You have a purpose in life. God did not plop you down on earth and forget about you. He knew you when you were still “in your mother’s womb” (Ps. 139:13) and He had a purpose for your life even then.

Your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me
were written in your book
before one of them came to be. (Ps. 139:16 NIV)

It doesn’t matter how young or how old you are, God has a purpose for you.

I remember attending a ladies’ Sunday school class many years ago when “Miss” Dottie, an elderly woman spoke up and confessed that she felt God was through with her on the earth. She thought she had completed her purpose, which she believed was to be faithful to her husband, to raise her children in a Godly home and see them succeed in life, was finished. The Senior Pastor’s wife was teaching this class and her answer applied to every woman in that room. “Your purpose in life is finished when you stand before God in heaven, and not a minute before. Just because you are of an older generation than most of us in this room does not mean your purpose is finished. Don’t put God in a box. He is not finished with you.” “Miss” Dottie lived to her mid-nineties and she became a mentor to other women – young and old. God’s purpose for her was different than she expected in her later life, but it was still His purpose and He used her to influence many women.

Mordecai told Esther in Esther 4:14 that she had been “brought to the kingdom for such a time as this.” I daresay the same statement applies to each one of us. You have been placed here for “such a time as this.”

If you know the purpose God has for you, listen to Him. He will tell you when it’s time to implement that idea. He will give you step-by-step instructions and everything you need to walk in His calling.

For many people, God has more than one purpose planned for them. Listen to Him as He shares His intentions for you.

If you don’t know the purpose(s) God has for you, ask Him and listen. At the right time, He will reveal His plans for you and it will be immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.

Dear Father, Thank you for having a plan for each of us. Thank you for leading and guiding us to fulfill that purpose. I pray for those who are reading this today who may not know Your will for them. I ask You to show them the plans and purposes you have for them.  In Jesus’ matchless name, Amen.

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Day Twenty: The Gift of Family and Friends*

Sunday, December 20, 2015

(Post revised today’s date)

“…but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” Proverbs 24b

God has gifted me today with a wonderful family and great friends. If you have read my past blogs, you probably read about my family. I am married to my soul mate and best friend, Dave. I have two wonderful adult children, Kim and Kyle, both of whom married in 2014. I now have a son-in-love, Steven, and a daughter-in-love, Angela. Steven brings his son, Owen, into our family. Owen is quite the wrestler and helped lead his team to the state championships in 2014. I have another wonderful grandson grandson, Mackenzie. I was blessed that my parents raised me in a Christian home. Both of them have now passed away, and I miss them every day, but am comforted by the fact that I know I will see them again one day. I have one sister, Marie, who is also my best friend and  who I love dearly. There are also “family” members who, although not related by blood, they are still precious family to me.

God has blessed me with many faithful friends throughout the years. (There is not enough space to write about all of them and to avoid offending anyone, I have left out the names of the two that I mention.) I have one friend with whom I grew up. Our parents were best friends and she and I have been friends for as long as I can remember. We don’t get to spend as much time together as I would like, but when we get together, it’s as if we had seen each other the day before.

Another friend is a strong and mighty prayer warrior. I know that I can call her any time – day or night – and she will drop what she is doing and pray with me over the phone. She has a delightful laugh that cheers me instantly when I hear it!

 

I saved my very best friend for last. There really is a “Friend who sticks closer than a brother” and his name is Jesus. We are all human and as hard as we may try to not fail our friends, there will be times when we do. It’s the nature of the beast. This Friend, however, will never fail us. He will never leave us or forsake us. He is available 24/7/365. He loves us unconditionally, extravagantly, recklessly. If you do not know Jesus as your Savior and Best Friend, find a Bible and read Romans 10:8-13. Pray and ask Jesus to be your Savior and Best Friend. It will be a friendship for eternity.

Abba Father, thank you for being the Friend that is closer than a brother. I pray that if anyone reads this devotional and does not know you as their Savior, that they will read Romans 10:8-13 and will pray to receive You into their heart. I pray that You will bring Christian friends into their lives to help them as they begin their friendship with You. I ask your blessings on my family and friends and on the families and friends of everyone who reads this devotional.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

 

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Day Nineteen: The Gift of Freedom

Saturday, December 19, 2015

My present today was the gift of freedom.  When we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, he sets us free from the bondage of sin. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. (John 8:36) Once saved, our lives are no longer tangled up in sin and shame.

The Bible says that where the Spirit of the Lord is present, there is freedom. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. (II Cor. 3:17) This is so true. Have you ever been in a worship service or even been worshipping by yourself, and you knew the Spirit of the Lord was present? You felt completely free during that time to worship uninhibitedly, openingly.

We are given the freedom to approach God.  In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. (Eph. 3:12) We don’t have to build up our courage, or wait until we think the timing is right. We don’t have to wait for an invitation. We have the freedom to approach God any time – day or night.

The freedoms that I mentioned fall into a category that I call spiritual freedoms.

There are also freedoms that I call secular freedoms. These are freedoms that allow us to express our beliefs publically. We have the freedom to worship where we please, when we please and how we please. We do not have to hide our Bibles, much less our faith. We are free to witness to others anytime. We have the right to assemble together in church buildings and storefront buildings and borrowed locations all over America. My concern is that these freedoms are in grave danger. Other religions in America are being given preferential treatment while Christianity is being choked out of existence. We, as Christians,


need to stand up for our rights and not have the defeatist attitude that seems to have overtaken so many. I, for one, love my freedom to worship publically and do not want to lose it.

Father God, I pray that you will give us the courage to stand up for our rights as  Christians. I pray that You will show us when to act, what to do and what to say. I ask that You stir the hearts of all Christians that we might stand united as one for our religious freedoms. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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DAY Eighteen: The Gift of Contentment

Friday, December 18, 2015

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” (Philippians 4:11-12)

The Apostle Paul wrote these verses as he sat in a dirty, foul-smelling Roman prison. Yet, he was truly content. Had that been me, I’m sure I would have been screaming – furious at the lack of cleanliness, furious at the circumstances, furious at the unfairness of it all.

Still, I have experienced times of true contentment. I have realized that these times of true contentment are when I have listened and been obedient to what God has told me to do. Or the times when I have relinquished to God a problem I’ve been wrestling with and I’ve left that problem with Him to solve. I’ve completely let go of worrying about it, of trying to “fix it” and left it in Jesus’ most capable hands to resolve it as He sees fit. That is very hard for me to do – I’m such a fixer – I want to fix everything. And I’m impatient too. I want to fix it and I want to fix it NOW! So in addition to giving that problem to God, I have to be content with His timetable – not mine. It’s not easy, but I’m learning. One thing I do know – God’s solutions are always more satisfactory than mine would ever be and the contentment is much sweeter than when I try to fix the problem. In fact, there is no contentment when I try to fix the situation.

My commitment is to learn to live in true contentment all the time. It should be easy. All I have to do is unfurl this fist that is tightly woven around this problem…..

Father, I ask in the name of Jesus, that You would help us let go of the problems that would prevent us from being content. I pray that You would enable us to leave those problems in Your hands, knowing that Your solutions are always for the best. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

 

© December, 2009

 

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Day Sixteen: The Gift of Truth

December 16, 2015

John 8:32: Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

In order to understand how truth sets us free, we must first look at how not knowing the truth keeps us bound.

What people perceive to be the truth is truth to them.  Whether or not it’s really truth has nothing to do with what they believe.  Their perception—about themselves, others, any situation—is truth to them. For example, when a woman looks in the mirror and tells herself, “You’re fat, you’re disgusting, no one can love you if you look like this,” that is truth to her, even if she weighs one hundred pounds and is five feet, six inches. Because she believes what she says, it is truth to her.

Another example is the person who tells themselves that God doesn’t love him or her. “I know He loves others, but not me.  I’ve done too many bad things for Him to love me.” Until the real truth is revealed to this person, and they come to know and believe that God truly does love them, he or she will believe that He doesn’t love them and that will be his or her truth.

Where do we find the truth?  The same place we find all of the answers to our questions and challenges.  We find truth in the Bible. As we search the Scriptures, God reveals the truth to the answers we seek. When we pray and listen to God, He will speak to us, providing us with the answers we need. And as we sit in His presence, He will pour out His love into our hearts and lives, showing us how much He adores us.

God will also reveal Himself and His truth in the sacrament of the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. We “celebrate the Eucharist” or as some denominations call it “take communion.” Whatever your denomination calls it, it is a time of remembrance and reflection, and listening to God as He may speak to you during this time.

My prayer for you during this Advent Season is that “you will know the truth and the truth will set you free!”

 

Father God, I ask in the name of Jesus that You reveal the truth to each one who is searching today. Whether they are searching for truth about themselves, others or a situation they find themselves in, I pray that You will reveal the truth to them, giving them Your wisdom and guidance. In Jesus’ name I pray, AMEN.