Wednesday, December 31, 2008

One Question

by Missy Grant

If you were only able to ask the Lord for one thing this year…..what would it be? I’m serious. Give it some thought. If you had one question, one thought, one desire….what would you ask of the Lord? I have been pondering the Holy Spirit – its role, its relation within the trinity, its work of instruction and intercession in our lives. I had not thought much of the Holy Spirit as simply a gift until I read this by Nancy Guthrie recently,


“And I’ll never forget returning from our honeymoon and heading back to the office—together. On my desk was a sign with my new name, Nancy Guthrie, a gift from my new husband. To me, it was his way of saying, “Things have changed. You are mine. I want everyone to identify you with me.” It was not only a reminder of who I belong to, but of his promises to me as my husband. When you accepted God’s offer of himself, he gave you a gift to serve as a seal of his promises, to identify you as his. He gave you the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit within you reveals not only his ownership but also your security as his child.” (emphasis mine).


John 14:16, 26 says, "I will ask the Father, and He will give you another helper, that He may be with you forever;...but the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you."


John 10:28 says, “and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand.


If I had one thought or desire to express to the Lord for this year, it would be to experience walking in the gift of the Holy Spirit. Fully recognizing it as a gift of His promises to us – to fully experience His ownership of me and live within the security of being his child – one which can not be snatched from His hand.


Heavenly Father – in weakness we fall. We allow bruising to become belief, often forsaking the very promises you have given us. "Your word is a lamp to our feet and light to our path" May we follow the winding path to the narrow gate and back into your waiting arms. You promised not only to"never leave us or forsake us", but you "draw near to those who call on you". You not only bestowed the gift of eternity at the cost of your son’s life, but you gave us the gift of the Holy Spirit. We praise you Lord! May we sing of your new mercies each and every day. Amen



Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Remaining Resolute for the New Year

by Sue Donaldson

I have this great little devotional called Face to Face. The author, Kenneth Boa, rewrote Scripture passages in the first person, divided into daily readings that are meant for five- minute increments. Not that the Word doesn’t deserve more than five minutes, but five is better than none. Smart man.


I remember when my younger sister (by five years) told me she committed to have her devotions five minutes a day, I sniffed a bit from my older sister high tower, and commented, “ONLY five minutes, Lori?” She replied, ever so sweetly, “Yes. That way I know I’ll have them.” Hmm. . .out of the mouths of babes.


Reading Face to Face makes me pray the Word back to God. I love it. Here’s what caught my eye (and heart) today – and made me linger a little longer than five minutes as I compared different translations:

I was not redeemed from an aimless way of life, O Christ, with perishable things, such as gold or silver, but with Your precious blood as of a lamb without blemish or defect.” (I Peter 1:18,19)


Peter’s point is the cost of our redemption; but, I was struck with the first phrase:

“. . .redeemed from an aimless way of life.”


The Message states: “It cost God plenty to get you out of that dead-end, empty-headed life you grew up in.”

The NIV puts it: “ . . . you were redeemed from the empty way of life passed down from your forefathers. . .”


Love that--who wants to be empty-headed? Who wants an empty way of life?

We don’t have to live any day aimlessly. We do, I do – but I don’t have to, and I don’t want to. I can be resolute in my commitment to abide in Christ. That’s why I was redeemed.


Dear Father,

May I not live aimlessly any day – You give me purpose and great joy. And, I praise You for it and for Your Son. Amen.


PS

Five minutes a day with Face to Face (Vol. I or II) may make a good New Year’s Resolution for you-- a very worthy under $10.00 investment that will help you to not live aimlessly in 2009. I’ve given this little gem for birthday gifts – in fact, Laurie Baldwin got it two years in a row (I forgot I already gave it to her . . . old age, you know. . .sigh.)


Monday, December 29, 2008

God All-Sufficient


“ O Lord of Grace,

The world is before me this day, and I am weak and fearful, but I look to thee for strength; If I venture forth alone I stumble and fall, but on the Beloved’s arms I am firm as the eternal hills; If left to the treachery of my heart I shall shame thy Name, but if enlightened, guided, upheld by thy Spirit, I shall bring thee glory.

Be thou my arm to support,
My strength to stand,
My light to see,
My feet to run,
My shield to protect,
My sword to repel,
My sun to warm.

To enrich me will not diminish thy fullness; All thy lovingkindness is in thy Son, I bring him to thee in the arms of faith, I urge his saving Name as the One who died for me. I plead his blood to pay my debts of wrong.

Accept his worthiness for my unworthiness,
his sinlessness for my transgressions,
his purity for my uncleanness,
his truth for my deceits,
his meekness for my pride,
his constancy for my backslidings,
his love for my enmity,
his fullness for my emptiness,
his faithfulness for my treachery,
his obedience for my lawlessness,
his glory for my shame,
his devotedness for my waywardness,
his holy life for my unchaste ways,
his righteousness for my dead works,
his death for my life.”

Taken from The Valley of Vision

Thursday, December 25, 2008

The Construction of a Man

by Rebecca Irwin

Welcome to Christmas! I write to you from Wednesday, and today, the birthday countdown is nearly over. My oldest son met the waitress in CPK by announcing to her "Tomorrow is my birthday!". Usually, people look at me quizzically to confirm whether this news is true or false for the day he speaks of is Christmas. Joyfully, it is true, he was born at 6:30 Christmas morning and arrived from the nursery in a stocking. Thus, it has been my habit with each passing year to reflect on the birth of our Lord Jesus and Mary's journey as his mother.

Today, my son turns seven. He is keenly interested in building things. He scours for good scraps when we are out and imagines it becoming a boat or plane. When asked what he wants to grow up to be, he says confidently, "a construction site worker". He even says he likes to work hard - and is willing to prove it, given a "job" to do. This year, we thought of a perfect birthday gift for his consistent interest in constructing - his very own set of tools.

I imagine the boy Jesus in his father's carpenter shop demonstrated similar enthusiasm and interest for making useful things. It was probably a great joy for Joseph to have a little apprentice in his shop asking how and why, learning his craft, his trade. It may have grown tiring, a bit exasperating at times, but at this age, he is becoming truly helpful. He has a better understanding of cause and effect. He can fetch a hammer, or clean up the shop floor. He can affirm the choice of a table leg's carving or advise on the color of a wood stain. Joseph might even stand back and be amazed at how quickly this boy is growing, and impressed by his readiness to learn.

Inside their home, Mary may have felt the tension of her little boy becoming a young man. He is no longer hanging on her skirt, no longer underfoot as she does her work. Gladly, he is helpful to her too - setting the table and playing peek-a-boo with his youngest brother. But her apron strings are getting longer. She knows he is truly a special boy, and she resists to protect him as he learns, as he studies, as he grows. Perhaps she even discussed with Joseph a perfect birthday gift - his own set of tools.

May you remember, this day, God's faithfulness to us by coming to earth as a baby boy and living each day as we do. With struggle, with uncertainty, with limitations, with pain and also with celebration, with happiness, with the joy of learning, with community. I am so glad for the verses in Luke 2:51-52 "And He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and he continued in subjection to them; and His mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men."

Father, thank you for sending your son to live a very daily life as a boy learning to be a man. Thank you for his understanding of humanity. Thank you for not sending a successful man in his prime who could not sympathize with our weaknesses, but rather giving us a "high priest...who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin" (Hebrews 4:15). And thank you, for the opportunity to grow in wisdom and the knowledge of you. A very happy birthday for us Jesus! Amen.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008


"And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
"

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Good News of Great Joy

by Sue Donaldson

God’s hospitality can be found throughout Scripture. He welcomed us to His heart and home long ago. One of the more jubilant invitations rang out one cold night to a motley band of shepherds:

Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people. . .” (Luke 2:10)

The news was great. It was for all people. And it would bring joy.

This week people are singing, “Joy to the World” – they may even know more than one verse – but do they know joy? Do they know God included them in the invitation – “which will be for all the people” (that’s my favorite line – I like a crowd.)

Joy comes from God. If you are feeling less than joyful this Christmas, come to Him. RSVP ASAP. He’s more than ready to give you Jesus. He said so in John 15 – “These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.”

Pastor Tim reminded us yesterday that joy was part of the invitation– “I have come to give you life – abundant life.” (John 10) Sounds joyful to me.

Jesus came as a babe – and that’s the center of our joy.


Dear Father,
Thank You for your gift of Jesus. He is my joy. Fill me with yourself so much so that joy overflows to everyone around me. Amen.

PS
My artist friend Joanie made this wooden wall hanging for me years ago. I had the kids copy it – on paper, not wood – a few years ago as their craft for the Birthday Party for Jesus. Isn’t it great? One of my favorites!



Monday, December 22, 2008

Stop, Look and Listen

by Peggy Brown

So…here it is - my lesson for the year. Are you ready for this? I am NOT God!!! As much as I wish that I could be at times, the sad fact is I’m not. (Maybe it’s not so sad, hm?)

This fact rose up and smacked me in the face the other day when one of my kids needed my help and there was nothing that I could do about it. I couldn’t provide anything but advice and even that wasn’t too useful. What I wanted to do was get in my car and go running to my child’s aid. The most frustrating part was that all I could do was wait, and pray.

When my kids were little, it was so easy to fix a Boo Boo or dry tears. It was so comforting to be able to be the solver of problems and dispenser of wisdom. You know, for their first 18 years (or maybe 5, I have kinda blocked out those teenage times!) it was so tempting to be lulled into a false sense of control. It was easy to lose track of the fact that I was NEVER really in control.

I can see that God used this little incident to put a big STOP sign right in front of me! “Stop and think about Who I am.” “Stop and remember Who your children belong to ultimately.” “Stop and remember that you gave Me these children years ago.” “Stop and consider the life lessons that I want to teach this child. Lessons about trust, prayer, My faithfulness…” “Stop and consider the life lessons I want to teach you!”

As I was waiting, God focused my heart to look at my response. My first response wasn’t to pray it was to act. It wasn’t until I was helpless to act that I began to pray. I had come to the end of my own self and realized that I could only pray. As if that’s a small thing!

When I began to pray was when I began to listen. All of the “tapes” of the lessons I have learned from and about God began to play in my heart. I listened to the Holy Spirit reminding me that God is in control of every detail of my family’s life whether I can reach them or not, and I listened as He spoke to me through my husband’s questions and counsel.

I am so thankful that God uses every circumstance of my life to focus my heart on Him. Sometimes it takes me a while to get the focus adjusted so that it’s not blurry, but once the focus becomes clear, there is such peace. The sermon Sunday about how Jesus, the shepherd of His people, cares for our very lives, served as another opportunity to focus my heart on God’s control of every detail. Thanks Lord for your patient reminders.

Phil. 4:6-7 (New Living Translation) “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need , and thank Him for all He has done. If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His eace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”

Since this is my last post before Christmas, I am wishing each one of you the blessings of a Christ-focused Christmas.

With love,
Peggy

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Perfect Longing

by Rebecca Irwin


What is it in our human race that wants perfection?

This question puzzled me this week as I scanned the LA Times headlines...a Governor tried to sell a Senate seat - imperfect! A celebrity cheated on his wife - imperfect! A money manager cheated people out of millions - truly imperfect! Why is the standard so golden? Why do we gasp when people fall so short? Haven't we come to expect this kind of thing?

We even desire the moments around us to have Martha-esque perfection. Scan the magazine headlines and you will see tips on finding the perfect gift! Cook the perfect holiday meal! Have a perfectly wonderful time! Achieve a flawless look! The perfect look for the season! You can go on, can't you? They are so familiar to us.

Sadly, what appears perfect, rarely lasts. In our skepticism, we wait to catch famous people failing. We want to see cellulite on a beautiful person's body. We try to expose powerful people abusing. We want to implicate the person that seems too good. We strain to hear the story of our neighbor's failure.

This Christmas season, it struck me that a longing for the Messiah like the one Simeon had is still present today. We long for the Perfect to come. We long for Christ to conquer our modern-day Romans. We want to be freed from our self-imposed slavery and idol worship. We inherently want all things to be made new. We do, in fact, long for perfection. It is the tension that Paul wrote about to the Corinthians "For we know in part and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known."

Jesus, we praise you that your perfect work has begun! Your kingdom has broken into this world. In the life of Jesus we catch a glimpse of perfection. We see him restore perfect health. We see him resolve hunger. We see him weep at death. We see him quell fear. So, Father, we eagerly await the Messiah's second coming, when this imperfect madness will be finished. When we will see a new heaven and a new earth - and we will finally see perfection. Amen

Thursday, December 18, 2008

by Missy Grant


What does your planned day look like? Are you busier than you ought to be? Are you stressing and messing? Are you wishing for more hours in the day then He granted us? Are you hustling and bustling for activities devoid of Him? STOP. Take a few minutes...spend some time with Him right now.....maybe this will help:

"Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse,
And a branch from his roots will bear fruit.
The Spirit of the LORD will rest on Him,
The spirit of wisdom and understanding,
The spirit of counsel and strength,
The spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.
And He will delight in the fear of the LORD,
And He will not judge by what His eyes see,
Nor make a decision by what His ears hear;
But with righteousness He will judge the poor,
And decide with fairness for the afflicted of the earth;
And He will strike the earth with the rod of His mouth,
And with the breath of His lips He will slay the wicked.
Also righteousness will be the belt about His loins,
And faithfulness the belt about His waist.
And the wolf will dwell with the lamb,
And the leopard will lie down with the young goat,
And the calf and the young lion and the fatling together;
And a little boy will lead them.
Also the cow and the bear will graze,
Their young will lie down together,
And the lion will eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child will play by the hole of the cobra,
And the weaned child will put his hand on the viper's den.
They will not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain,
For the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD
As the waters cover the sea.
Then in that day
The nations will resort to the root of Jesse,
Who will stand as a signal for the peoples;
And His resting place will be glorious."
"For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us;
And the government will rest on His shoulders;
And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.
There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace,
On the throne of David and over his kingdom,
To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness
From then on and forevermore
The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this."
Lord, we praise your sovereign hand. Your words of life are sustaining and bring true peace and joy. In this season, Lord, where our 'world' pushes and pulls us into 'doing' rather than 'being', may we "Cease striving and know you are God." Let us be Daniels in our time...standing firm in the faith, standing firm in the seasonal lion's den and proclaiming "Let the name of God be blessed forever and ever, for wisdom and power belong to Him." Amen.


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

I HAVE A WEAKNESS (OR PROBABLY MORE THAN ONE)

by Debbi Weeks

I woke up this morning with a rotten cold. Actually I’ve been fighting it off for three or four days. I’ve been doing everything within my power to make sure I didn’t end up with this zinger. This morning I learned the cold won.

Physically, my greatest area of weakness is my chest (I could make quite a few jokes here, but I’ll just let your imagination write your own). If a cold gets into my chest I’m a goner. Ten years ago I even had to have back surgery due to a cold! The doctor told me I ruptured several discs in my back coughing and seven months later I had to have disc removal surgery. It’s important for me to know my physical weakness so that I can do my best to keep from getting really sick.

So it is with my spiritual weaknesses as well. I need to identify and be aware of my spiritual weaknesses for two reasons: first Satan likes to prey upon my weaknesses telling me lies so that I become really spiritually sick. And second, when I recognize my weakness and offer it up to God then He turns my weakness into strength.

2 Corinthians 12:7-10 “. . . So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud. Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

I’m learning to be thankful for my weaknesses both physical and spiritual because they cast me onto my Father’s lap where I can see His strength in me. Just the same, I hope I get over this cold quickly and can fully celebrate my Savior’s birth!

Father God I praise You that You are omnipotent. You are all powerful in creation and in our lives as individuals.
I confess that I sometimes wallow in my weakness and listen to Satan’s lies.
Thank You that when I am weak, then I am strong because of You.
Please allow me to see the power of Christ working in my weaknesses.
In Christ’s Name, Amen.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Happy Birthday, to You

by Sue Donaldson


It’s almost time. Ten days and counting. Jesus’ birthday is around the corner. Have you finished shopping yet?

One December I asked my friend, Debbi, to pray that I would know what Jesus wanted for Christmas from me. She was faithful and prayed all month. Then, a week before Christmas, she got the word (before I did, mind you!)

“Sue,” she said, “I know what you are supposed to give Jesus for His birthday this year.”

Before she could finish, I interrupted – “I just gave Him His present – I just served a Christmas luncheon for nine friends. . .”

Debbi ignored me and went on. “You are supposed to give a birthday party for Jesus and invite Bonnie’s entire kindergarten class – and I’ll help.”

That last phrase was key. It was just a few days away, and I didn’t know how or what to do. I ended up inviting all the girls in Bonnie’s class – I don’t do boys – only daughters, you know – and 11 came. One mom called to ask if we’d be reading from the Bible. I assured her we would be, and invited her to come. (We’ve been friends ever since.)

All the girls brought baby gifts – new or gently used – unwrapped – to donate to our local crisis pregnancy center. We potato-stamped brown paper bags as the wrapping. (I’m craft-impaired, but was able to carve out Christmas symbols on potatoes with my paring knife without any undue injury.) Each child blew out a candle on her own piece of birthday cake after singing “Happy Birthday, dear Jesus.” God demonstrated His strength and glory in this last-minute endeavor-- I came down with complete laryngitis, so two good friends ended up running the show and reading the Christmas story.

Bonnie just turned 20. We’ve continued the tradition through 14 years with various twists and turns – including making sure all the guests dressed warmly when we didn’t have heat during the remodel (more like a stable, don’t you think?)

This year, our youngest decided she might be “too old” for this wonderful event – but, she volunteered to run such a party for some other girls in kindergarten and first grade. Her friends will help. We invited 15 or so (only girls, still – I’m not that brave yet for boys, and girls really get into the crafts.) I expect this Thursday afternoon to be filled with all the joy and glitter on the floor that has blessed us through the years. It’s worth the glitter, believe me.

What will you give the Birthday Boy next week? Have you taken a moment to ask Him for His wish list from you? It’s not too late. He’s the perfect giver and will provide all you need to give back to Him. And, you can always ask Deb to pray (if you’re brave enough.)

Here’s a good place to start:

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.” Romans 12:1

Dear Lord,
What would you like for Christmas this year? Help me listen closely so I get it right. May this be Your best birthday yet! Amen.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Back to Bethlehem

by Peggy Brown

I love Christmas! I love the lights, the music, the smells (you won’t catch me with an artificial tree!); the cookies made with real butter…yum!

Like everyone I don’t like the stress that can come with Christmas. What gifts, who’s coming, did I bake those cookies last year, this tradition, that tradition, parties to go to (no matter how fun, they take time) and so on.

When I think about the first Christmas, I imagine that Mary and Joseph were feeling quite harried! Traveling all that way, pregnant as a house, political unrest in the whole land, crowded Bethlehem…remember NO ROOM in the inn? Then there was that whole going in to labor thing. I don’t know from experience, but I hear that’s rather distracting. Anyhow, there seems to have come a point in time for Mary and Joseph when the world stood still and there they were it the stable with Emmanuel – God with us! Wow talk about focus!

What will it take for us to unclutter our Christmas preparations? I think it is that same thing: FOCUS. Not focus on all of the trimmings and traditions, no matter how wonderful and good they might be, but focus on Jesus, Emmanuel, God with US.

Take a few minutes right now to let your mind wander back to Bethlehem. Just relax and focus on what Christmas really is. Let’s put all of the expectations and busy-ness on the back burner and give ourselves time to listen to the words of all of those beautiful carols that remind us of the truth; a baby, a manger, good tidings of GREAT JOY which shall be to all people. “For unto you is born this day, in the city of David, a Savior which is Christ the Lord!”

Silent Night

Silent night Holy night, all is calm all is bright,'Round yon virgin Mother and Child, Holy infant so tender and mild.Sleep in heavenly peace; Sleep in heavenly peace.

Silent night, holy night, Shepherds quake at the sight. Glories stream from heaven afar, Heav'nly hosts sing Alleluia; Christ the Savior is born; Christ the Savior is born.

Silent night, holy night, Son of God, love's pure light. Radiant beams from Thy holy face, With the dawn of redeeming grace, Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth; Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Joy in Trial

by Kate Hasson

This week we had a fire in our home that has left so much smoke and soot damage that we are no longer able to live there. We need to have professional help to clean the mess, our ceiling replaced, our walls cleaned and repainted, and perhaps the carpets redone. Not to mention all the clothes and linens and furniture that will need to be professionally cleaned also. We have been living at my Mom and Dad’s home since Sunday night and by the mercy of some church friends we will be moving into their Mom’s house sometime this weekend and living there for the next 3 weeks. Our insurance adjuster said that the clean-up will probably take about a month.

The first and second day of this whole ordeal were overwhelming and emotional for me. But since then the Lord has been working in me. Its hard to be so needy, and to be taking time, money, home, food and other things from my parents, not to mention adding much noise and chaos to their once peaceful and clean home. I know many are praying for us because God has given me great peace where my heart was once worried. Instead of worrying about our insurance policies and what will be paid for or not, miraculously I feel peaceful and joyous knowing that God is taking care of everything and that my only job is to live one moment at a time thanking and praising His name.

Do not be anxious for anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Philippians 4:6

So here is my “thankful list”:
I’m thankful:
1. that my house didn’t burn down.
2. that my family is safe.
3. that we can live at my parents house.
4. that this happened at this time of year when all my brothers and sisters are coming home. We all get to live together again!
5. that I get to live in SLO once again.
6. that I’m a stay at home mom and get to take care of my kids during a difficult time.
7. that the Lord is my strength.
8. that there are professionals who can fix things up.
9. that God is teaching me something new through all this.
10. that I get to see Him working in my life.
11. that I get to be with my little niece, and my girls get to be with their little cousin, every day!
12. that now we are so close to Travis’s work we can visit him at lunch time!
And etc. etc. etc…

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:2-4

Thank You, Lord, for the fire You allowed in our home. It has given me such a fresh and beautiful view of Your amazing provision. You are good!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Eight

by Rebecca Irwin

Well-intentioned as I was, eight days into the advent season we fell behind. Max and Jack had to eat three day's worth of chocolates, we speed through the missed devotions, and we had to recount the paper chain and tear off four links at once. As I lay in bed reviewing my lengthy wish-I-could-do list and trying to weigh it against reality, along with my discouragement for letting more than one ball drop in all that I was juggling, I wondered about Mary...

Eight miles into their journey to Bethlehem for the mandatory census, did she want to cry from exhaustion and just turn around and go home? Eight months into her pregnancy, did she wish she was not with child? Did she long for the simple life she had imagined living - the wedding she had dreamed of to Joseph, the home they were going to make together, the children they would have once they had settled into their marriage? Eight days after giving birth to this baby boy, and receiving strangers who came to see him, did she wonder what she had gotten herself into? As she traveled with an eight week old, not to her hometown of Galilee, but to Egypt because of Joseph's dream, was she frightened? As she raised an eight year old, did she look back and feel like she had failed, or was failing as a mother to this boy? How did this young girl from a small town and a simple life press on through extraordinary circumstances to literally live for Jesus, the Christ child?

In my own family, my mom and dad were engaged on August 8th (8-8) because there are eight letters in "I Love You". I pondered the significance of this. Love is the reason why Mary must have pressed on. She loved God and in her response "I am the servant of the Lord," she surrendered her whole self to that love and all it would require of her. But her journey would have been impossible if she had not known the love God had for her. He chose her for this special purpose, this amazing journey. I'm sure she never fully understood for what reason, but she was picked to be the mother of God's own son!

In my own life as a mother of young ones, love for my children is why I still get up in the morning even though I had far less than eight hours of sleep. This is why at the eight-o-clock hour I kiss the boys goodnight and then fall into a chair with exhaustion but only for a moment and then carry on and prepare for the day to come. This love is why I still nurse my little boy back to health after eight days of a stubborn cold. And this love is why I might bake eight dozen cookies for my kiddo's Christmas party. But to elevate my life to Kingdom living? To place myself on a path of the unknown, the uncomfortable, the sometimes scary things it will require, how does one do that? I don't know the how in each moment, but I do know this - it requires that I love God and knowing, with deep certainty, that He loves me. Look to Mary, she was a quiet and steady example of how a woman and a mother might live for God's Kingdom!

Father, may we also say "I am a servant of the Lord". Amen

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

God At Work

by Debbi Weeks

Romans 8:28 - “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”

Every week at staff meeting the first thing we do is share how we have seen God at work that week. Although He is always at work, sometimes it’s easier to see than others. Such was the case for me this Sunday when God caused several things to come together for me causing me to see a glimpse of Him at work.

I started Sunday morning working on my Bible Study. I was studying about the Bread of the Presence. The connection was made between the amount of flour in the loaf and the double portion of manna given to supply the needs for the daily need and the day of Sabbath rest. The connection was taken further to the double portion being the heritage of the firstborn and then noting that Christ is our firstborn (Romans 8:29). It was fascinating to see the type of Christ in the Bread of the Presence.

Then I went to my Adult Bible Fellowship class where we have been slowly working our way through Hebrews and this particular week we landed on Hebrews 9. Leon Maksoudian was expounding on the text – all about the tabernacle! Hebrews 9:1-2 says, “Now even the first covenant had regulations of divine worship and the earthly sanctuary. For there was a tabernacle prepared, the outer one, in which were the lampstand and the table and the sacred bread; this is called the holy place.” Leon pointed out that the lampstand and the bread were types of Christ. Jesus said, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life" (John 8:12) and “Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.” (John 6:35)

After my ABF, I went to the main worship service where Pastor Tim began a series on the “I Am” statements of Christ. His text was John 6:35-51 titled, “I Am the Bread of Life!” His five main points were 1) Jesus is the Bread for our hunger. 2) Jesus is Bread from heaven. 3) Jesus is Bread for life. 4) Jesus is Bread for the world. 5) Jesus is the Bread to be eaten.

My quiet time, ABF and the worship service - each focusing on the same aspects of Christ! God was definitely at work in my life on Sunday morning reminding me that my daily provision is from Him and that I need to continually feed on Him. I get so excited to think that God is communicating with me and that He repeats Himself until I listen. He works to get my attention and continues until I have understanding. I think I’ll bake some bread and remember my sustenance comes from Christ.

Father God I praise You that You are the Bread of Life.
I confess that I sometimes try to fast and skip feeding on You in my life.
Thank You that You are at work in my life and that You make sure I learn what You have for me.
Please continue to show me glimpses of You.
In Christ’s Name, Amen.


Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Who Needs a Ceiling, Anyway?

by Sue Donaldson

Can God really use us the way we are? We look at published authors, speakers, men and women of God and think: “Well, of course God can use them – look at who they are and what they’ve accomplished! I bet they have organized closets, too. . .”

I may not say these thoughts out loud, but I can buy into them at some level. Maybe you do, too. When I decide to focus on my failures – Peggy may call that “navel gazing” – I can’t say “yes” to God’s call on my life. Instead, I’m too busy feeling sorry for myself. I say things like: “Lord, look at the mess I’m in – You don’t really want to use me – I’m sure you can find someone better down the street or down the pew . . . look, that woman’s purse even matches her shoes!”

I’m glad Paul didn’t feel so full of his failures when God claimed him for His own on the road to Damascus. Look what he wrote in Philippians 3: “I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, Who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: by no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward – to Jesus. I’m off and running and I’m not turning back.” (The Message)

No navel gazing for Paul. He was too busy reaching out to Jesus. Don’t you just love that?

Here’s some shots from last Friday’s “Soup’s On” – notice that the ceiling (or, the counters . . .) didn’t get finished before the party started – or after, for that matter. No one seemed to mind – at least, they didn’t say anything. I’m glad God used our house, imperfect and unfinished. He wants to use your’s, too. And, not just your house -- your whole life.


Father,Thanks for using imperfect people like us – and Paul. You are so encouraging. May we be ready and willing to say ‘yes’ to You, no matter how we feel. Help us be “off and running” after Jesus. It’s His birthday, after all. Amen



Monday, December 8, 2008

Family

by Peggy Brown

We had a great Thanksgiving! Wayne and I traveled to Seattle to have Thanksgiving with Debbie, Matt, Seth and Bekka Weeks at our daughter Bethany’s little apartment. Bethany invited her boyfriend Chuck, and he and Seth invited their army buddy Tim. I confess that when we left, I wasn’t sure how everything was going to turn out (imagine three 20ish boys deciding to deep fry the Thanksgiving turkey for the first time…it gives one pause!) I figured it would either be great fun or a great disaster! Nine people in a small apartment eating a deep fried turkey and Marie Callender’s sides on paper plates in a living room with very little furniture could be a bit dicey. Well, it WAS great fun! We all were entertained watching Matt, Wayne and “the boys” out the window as they fried the Turkey and baptized the driveway with boiling oil. We also enjoyed eating the fried onion rings, Snicker bars and (not so much) the Twinkies. I guess once the oil is hot, why not try frying everything? The food was delicious, the fellowship sweet. (Thanks Debbi for bringing the folding chirs and games!)

What I loved about the day was the family feel, even though there were a variety of relationships. Some of us were already friends (the Weeks), some were acquaintances (Chuck) and one we met that day when he showed up (Tim); but what we all had in common was our love for Jesus. In a very real way, it felt like we had known one another for a long time.

I thought about how often we are called the family of God and brothers and sisters in Christ in the Bible, so I went to a Concordance and looked up “brothers and sisters in Christ”. Here are just some of the 12 pages of references I found:

Rom. 8:29- For God knew His people in advance, and He chose them to become like His Son, so that His Son would be the firstborn, with many brothers and sisters.

Gal. 6:10- Whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone, especially to our Christian brothers and sisters.

I Thes. 1:4- We know that God loves you, dear brothers and sisters, and that He chose you to be His own people.

I Peter 1:22- Now you can have sincere love for each other as brothers and sisters because you were cleansed from your sins when you accepted the truth of the Good News. So see to it that you really do love each other intensely with all your hearts.

1 Peter 5:9- Take a firm stand against (Satan), and be strong in your faith. Remember that your Christian brothers and sisters all over the world are going through the same kind of suffering you are.

I John 3:16- We know what real love is because Christ gave up His life for us. And so we also ought to give up our lives for our Christian brothers and sisters.

Our Thanksgiving experience reminded me that I am related to ALL other believers. Some I know well, some not so well. Maybe there are even some that I’d rather NOT know! But God is quite clear…we are spiritual siblings, He loves us and He wants us to love one another. Love needs time and relationship to grow and be strengthened. That means I have to work at it! Challenged? I am!

God, You have adopted me into Your family. You have given me brothers and sisters to love and live in relationship with. Please teach me to prioritize relationships over busy-ness of life. Amen

Friday, December 5, 2008

Quiet Me

by Cindy Frauenheim

This week a verse from my Bible study homework really jumped out at me. It was not the main emphasis of the study, but one given at the end of the day’s study for encouragement.

"The LORD your God is with you,
he is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you,
he will quiet you with his love,
he will rejoice over you with singing."
Zephaniah 3:17

The phrase that really touched my soul was “he will quiet you with his love”. That concept has been resonating with me for several days, and I have committed the verse to memory. Last time I talked about our “to-do” lists and how busy we can get this time of year. Well I have certainly been put to the test in this area this week! I have been pressured from all sides with many of those “one-more-things”. I have felt that building tension, wondering how it will all ever get done, and even physically have been tense (threw my back out rearranging my freezer!).

I don’t know exactly how God quiets us with his love, but I see it there in his word, and I believe it. I am praying for God to do that daily. Meditating on the fact that the Lord my God is with me and that he delights in me, gives me evidence of his love. Looking to the cross, we see the ultimate evidence of his love. I think just refocusing daily on his attributes and promises can quiet me – getting the focus off myself. But there I go, trying to figure out how I will quiet myself, when the promise is that he will quiet me. So lately I am just restating this verse as the truth it is, not necessarily trying to figure it out. I am saying it to myself, and back to God as a petition and with thanksgiving.

Lord, thank you for your promise of quieting me with your love. I need you to do that, as I clearly cannot quiet myself. Thank you for the simple yet powerful reminder that you are with me, you are mighty, and you delight and rejoice over me. That is amazing. Thank you for loving me so much that you care to quiet me. Help me to yield to your Holy Spirit, and allow you to give me rest, calm my fears, and lead me beside those quiet waters.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Fear Not

by Rebecca Irwin
It has the power to make your feet feel like they were set into cement shoes. It will keep you from getting off the couch and doing something about it. It can prevent you from doing what is best because you anticipate the gossip. It can make you run when you should stay. It will keep you from really giving yourself a good look in the mirror. It will cause you to operate on presumptions and miss out on what is true. It deceives you into thinking you are choosing God's will because it feels safe. It inhibits true community. It kills joy. It suffocates love. It is FEAR.

What if fear had won in the account we hear retold each Christmas?

Mary would have disbelieved the angel Gabriel, maybe even ran from that place and missed his message to her. Instead, she was the mother of the Christ child.
"And Mary said, Yes, I see it all now: I'm the Lord's maid, ready to serve. Let it be with me just as you say. Then the angel left her. Blessed Among Women
Mary didn't waste a minute. She got up and traveled to a town in Judah in the hill country, straight to Zachariah's house, and greeted Elizabeth....And Mary said, I'm bursting with God-news; I'm dancing the song of my Savior God. God took one good look at me, and look what happened - I'm the most fortunate woman on earth! What God has done for me will never be forgotten...It's exactly what he promised, beginning with Abraham and right up to now."
Luke 1:38-55 [the Message]

Joseph would have divorced Mary quietly and missed out on the journey. Instead, he got to name the boy Jesus, which means God saves.
"While he was trying to figure a way out, he had a dream. God's angel spoke in the dream: "Joseph, son of David, don't hesitate to get married. Mary's pregnancy is Spirit-conceived. God's Holy Spirit has made her pregnant. She will bring a son to birth, and when she does, you, Joseph, will name him Jesus - 'God saves' - because he will save his people from their sins." This would bring the prophet's embryonic sermon to full term: Watch for this - a virgin will get pregnant and bear a son; They will name him Emmanuel (Hebrew for "God is with us"). Then Joseph woke up. He did exactly what God's angel commanded in the dream: He married Mary.But he did not consummate the marriage until she had the baby. He named the baby Jesus." Matthew 1:20-25 [the Message]

The shepherds would have cowered in the fields and never seen the Christ child. In great contrast, they met the chief end of man and glorified God because of what they had seen.
"As the angel choir withdrew into heaven, the sheepherders talked it over. "Let's get over to Bethlehem as fast as we can and see for ourselves what God has revealed to us." They left, running, and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. Seeing was believing. They told everyone they met what the angels had said about this child. All who heard the sheepherders were impressed. Mary kept all these things to herself, holding them dear, deep within herself. The sheepherders returned and let loose, glorifying and praising God for everything they had heard and seen. It turned out exactly the way they'd been told!" Luke 2:15-20 [the Message]

Let this be a great reminder to me! Each time a messenger of the Lord appeared to someone in the story, they commanded them "Fear not" or "do not be afraid". In obedience, exercising complete faith, they overcame their fear as they believed the message that was given to them. In the book of Mark, Jesus told a father whose daughter was reported dead "Do not fear, just believe," and he witnessed the miracle of his daughter being made well. In 2 Timothy, Paul wrote to him, "For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control." A commentary on this verse said "Fear is the result of "the spirit of bondage" (Romans 8:15). Fear within exaggerates the causes of fear without." What amazing works are done when FEAR is removed!!

Father God, may you release us from the bondage of fear and timidity and through faith, allow us to exercise power, love and self-control. Cause your perfect love to cast out all fear. Perfect your love within us [1 John 4:18]. May we be like Mary, blessed among women, dancing the song of our Savior God. We thank you for defeating fear! Amen.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Following Journey

by Debbi Weeks

We drove home on Sunday from the state of Washington after visiting our son for the Thanksgiving holiday. We got up at 3:30 a.m. and left at 4:00 a.m.! We finally got home at 11:30 p.m. – 19 ½ hours in the car! I told Matt I don’t think I can do that again; I’m just too old and crickety (I know that’s not really a word, but it describes how I felt and what I looked like! ☺).

It was actually pretty smooth sailing until just south of Stockton, and then I-5 became a parking lot. It took us roughly five hours to travel about 150 miles! You can’t believe the number of cars on that road! Then the tulle fog set in. I suppose it wasn’t the worst fog, but there were places you couldn’t see 20 feet in front of the car. Everyone had to slow down; there just wasn’t any other option. We were looking forward to turning off onto Hwy. 41 (to Hwy. 46) into Paso Robles assuming that the climb would take us out of the fog – which it eventually did, but not for a LONG time.

When we got off on 41, I was driving and quite surprisingly we were the only car we could see get off of I-5. As I drove in the dark and fog, it was so difficult to see the road to stay on it. When cars came from the other direction their headlights made it almost impossible to see the road. I had been praying, but these circumstances surely increased my fervor.

After some time a truck came up behind us and I noticed he didn’t seem to be having the same difficulties I was having. We eventually got to a passing lane and he went in front of me. It was then I realized how much easier it is to drive in the fog following the taillights in front me. The oncoming traffic didn’t even bother me as much. I could almost relax as I drove with my eyes glued to the path of those blessed taillights!

Our journey home made me think of my spiritual journey. Just as I had everything I needed to drive in the fog – headlights and lines and reflectors on the road, we have everything we need to follow Christ, the Bible and the Holy Spirit – directing our path and leading and guiding us. Still the journey is made so much easier when we can follow the “taillights” of those who have gone before us. Sometimes seeing a life lived for Christ is such an encouragement along the path of righteousness. I think that’s why I love Christian biographies so much.

In I Corinthians 11:1, Paul exhorts, “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.

Who has God placed in your life as a “taillight” and who can you be a “taillight” for? Perhaps it’s someone in your own home or maybe you’ll need to look a little further – whichever it is be a Christ imitator on this following journey.


Father God I praise You for your guidance and direction in this life that takes different forms. I praise You for providing Your Spirit and Your Word to teach us. I praise You, too, for providing brothers and sisters in Christ that we can imitate.
I confess I sometimes close my eyes to all that You have provided and I forget that others may be following me.
Thank You that You allowed us to arrive home safely. Thank You for providing taillights for us to follow in the fog of our physical lives as well as in our spiritual lives.
Please allow me to imitate those who imitate You and thereby follow You closely.
In Christ’s Name, Amen.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

A Time to Connect

by Sue Donaldson

Yesterday Ken Peet said: “Don’t play church – be the church.” One great way to be the church is to love on each other.

I find that hard to do sometimes. Either I don’t see the people I love enough or I don’t even know half the people at my church! (So frustrating.) Ten minutes between services is not much time to connect. I’m lucky to meet one visitor or touch base with one old friend – it doesn’t help that children are pulling at my sleeves.

Ken didn’t mean we “be the church” only at church. It’s 24/7, wherever God leads, whoever He places in our path.

Our church is big. It’s not a mega--church, but it’s big. Thus, it offers Growth Groups, Sunday School classes, Bible Studies, choir, the knitting ladies, ministry boards, and salad suppers. We don’t do these things just to keep busy or to fill up our calendars. We do them to connect, to encourage one another, to spur us on to the good work of knowing God better and deeper.

People can feel lonely in a crowd. It’s up to us to make our “crowd” manageable—so that we feel loved, practice our spiritual gifts, and aren’t lonely. We’re grown up (or, trying to be!) --we can take responsibility for our loneliness and for obeying God’s injunction in Hebrews 10:24 and 25:

And let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another . . .”

Can you spend a moment “considering how,” as the verse says?

How can you love one another better this week? How can you “assemble” in a smaller group this week? Don’t wait til the new year – come for soup on Friday from 12-3 pm at my house. Next month, Soup’s On! Friday will be at Missy’s. Watch for the bulletin announcement.

We’re not eating soup just to have one more thing to do. Rather, it’s so we can connect and know one another as God intended in this great, big idea of His called “the church family.”

See you Friday. Bring crackers.

Father God,
We love You. We love your idea of our church family. How do you want us to assemble together this week? Help us get connected so that Your name is lifted up. Now that’s a great idea. Amen.



Monday, December 1, 2008

Passing the Baton, pt. II

by Peggy Brown

This is the “rest of the story” follow up on my blog from Nov. 17th. If you missed it, you can go there first and see where I began this journey. For those of you who might be short on time, I’ll just say that I am expressing my gratefulness for the women that God has placed in my life to teach, encourage and disciple me.

My purpose for sharing these women with you is that you might be encouraged by one of their stories. I hope you will see someone like yourself and recognize how you might encourage those who are coming along behind us!

I guess I’ll pick up in high school. Never underestimate the power of the Youth Pastor’s wife!!! Her name was Susie. The thing that stands out in my mind about her was her servant’s heart. She was never the ‘star’ of the show, but she was always there with a big smile and time to listen to us pour out our hearts. She was faithful to give Godly counsel, and she lived out God’s design for a Christian wife in front of us impressionable teenagers.

Two amazing women walked into my life after I graduated from High School. The first was our college Pastor’s wife. Phyllis was an “older” woman to me (she must have been at least 27!) She very actively ministered to us, leading Bible Studies and discussion groups. Looking back now, I see plainly that her goal was to train us how to be young women of God. She never backed away from any subject we brought up. She challenged us to serve others both in the church and outside of the church. She drew us all in with her warmth. One of the things she focused on was relationships with men. She exhorted us to remain pure sexually at a time when “free love” was everywhere around us. She showed us what God said about having relationships with men…they were our Christian brothers and we should focus on encouraging them as such. She also spent many hours with me after I became engaged, letting me pepper her with questions and showing me from God’s word His plan for marriage.

The other woman I’d like you to know was the wife of a local campus ministry missionary. When I met Dorothy, I didn’t quite know what to think of her. I had never known anyone who spoke her mind quite so readily. (Maybe that was to prepare me for meeting my future mother-in-law ;-) I met her after I began dating Wayne (my husband). After our engagement, she took me on as a “project” when she saw that my mom wasn’t able help navigate the sometimes complicated issues of engagement and new marriage. Dorothy was the one who helped me learn about “leaving and cleaving” (Gen. 2:24), she gave me the book on (S) (E) (X) that about gave my mother heart failure! She took very seriously the admonition of Titus 2:3-5Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips, nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be dishonored.

As you can see, I have been so blessed to have had these wonderful women in my life. God must have known that I needed extra-special attention to get this stuff into my heart! As I write this, it is 3 days before Thanksgiving and as I was thinking of things I am thankful for the other day, I realized how very thankful I am for the blessing of this heritage. I also realized that with this gift comes the responsibility of encouraging others.

My encouragement to each one of us is that we will take up the baton that has been passed to us. Maybe you haven’t had the same experience that I have, but most of you have had one person pour into your life. If not, then let me encourage you to be the first! You be the one to pour out of your life into the life of another. It’s not hard…it’s just living up close and personal and you can see that it doesn’t have to be any kind of formal arrangement. Maybe it’s just sitting at the AWANA store table and being Jesus to those kids…maybe it’s holding a fussy baby and sharing a word of encouragement to mom when she picks him up at the nursery. Whatever you are doing, you have an audience! I think that’s just the way God wanted it, don’t you?

Hebrews 10:24-25
and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more, as you see the day drawing near.”

Lord again I thank You for the gift of mentors. Please don’t let me be too busy to see those around me who need encouragement. Don’t let me be afraid to live up close and personal with other women. Let me be “Jesus with skin on” to the women that you bring into my life. Amen

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Advent

by Missy Grant



Advent – do you know the meaning of the word? Some with a strong liturgical background will make an instant connection to the word - others of you may not. Advent is from the Latin word Adventus which signifies a coming. In our English language we would also use the phrase to prepare to describe the term Advent. I grew up in a church and a family which celebrated Advent. It is a ceremony in which a candle (usually in a wreath) is lit each week signifying different aspects of preparing for celebrating the true reason for the season – Christ – one candle a week for four weeks prior to Christmas day.

Is celebrating Advent essential doctrine? No. As a matter of knowledge, this ceremony of preparation is based in western culture – not eastern, particularly within churches with a strong liturgical litany. Can it aid in focusing your prayer and thoughts on the Lord? Yes. As a statement of faith, please know that the writers of this blog believe in salvation by grace through faith alone, and while there are spiritual disciplines that aid in living a life according His call, nothing stands in between grace by faith.

For those interested, I have listed what each candle stands for and accompanying scripture which you can utilize. You may ask why I am posting this now – well, the first Sunday of Advent is tomorrow! In my home, we have an advent wreath in the center of our table and we read scripture, sing a song, pray and light a candle. It is a family tradition steeped deeply in His word. You might be interested in adding this tradition to your family this season or as part of your daily devotion with Him.

Week 1 – Hope (candle color is purple)
Selected scriptures: Isaiah 11:1-10
Luke 1:26-38
Isaiah 7:10-14
Matthew 1:18-24

Week 2 – Peace (candle color is purple)
Selected Scriptures: Micah 5:2
Matthew 2:1-2, 9-11
Isaiah 2:1-5
Matthew 3:1-6

Week 3 – Joy (candle color is rose)
Selected Scriptures: Isaiah 9:6-7
John 1:19-34
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
Philippians 2:1-11

Week 4 – Love (candle color is purple)
Selected Scriptures: Malachi 3:1-5
Romans 8:18-25
Isaiah 52:7-10
Revelation 21:1-4

Christmas Eve – The Christ Candle (candle color white)
Selected Scriptures: Isaiah 9:1-6
Luke 2:1-20
John 1:1-18
Titus 2:11-14

Dear Lord, thank you for your Word of Grace. For your gift of your Son. For loving us so deeply that you sent Him as a sacrifice for our sin. Lord, during this season when the world has taken you out of its name, may we purposefully put you back in. May we seek you and you alone. Prepare our hearts Lord, not just during this season, but in preparation of eternally praising you. Amen.


Friday, November 28, 2008

Family

by Kate Hasson

As I sit in my paternal grandmother’s computer room typing away I hear the familiar sounds and smell the familiar scents I have known all my life. Nana is laughing to Aunt Barbara’s stories. Aunt Janet is playing with the girls. Aunt Betty went to go get Starbucks for all. I awoke a few times last night and breathed in the wonderful scent of Nana…my mind was flooded with memories. Pictures of all our family as we’ve grown through the years grace the walls of her home. Honestly, this place, with these people, could probably be the most comforting and enjoyable place in the world to me.

And what makes it most special of all is that every single one of us knows Christ as our Savior. We’ll have family worship in the morning together with Nana’s beautiful piano playing accompanying our voices. Dad will probably do some devotional and then we’ll pray together. Thanksgiving brings a time of praise to the Lord around the table, not just common talk. My heart is fed here, my belly is fed here, and my soul is fed here. God is so good to give us family. People who, even if we’ve not seen in a year or more, will know us inside and out, and love us unconditionally.

The verse that came to my mind when thinking of family is Deuteronomy 6: 4-9

4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”

As family we get to love each other intimately and oh, how it makes the relationship that much more sweet. We get to love each other deeply by the power of Christ. I will always treasure talking of the commandments of the Lord with this family “as we sit at home, walk along the road, lie down and get up. Thank you, Jesus.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Words of Thanksgiving

by Rebecca Irwin

"The Lord delights in you." Isa. 62:4. "Thus says the Lord, who created you..."Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are Mine." Isa. 43:1. "See, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands..." Isa. 49:16

"Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving,and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever,and his faithfulness to all generations." Psalm 100:1-5.

What is "a sacrifice of thanksgiving" and how should I offer it? It intrigued me to look up the word 'thanksgiving' and realize in the Old Testament, it was a literal sacrifice (Lev. 7:11-15, Psalm 50:23). What does it cost me to thank my God? Time in preparation? Resources in the offering, perhaps? But even so, my efforts are so small and fallible. We set aside this day to be mindful of our blessings. Yet, my frustration grows as I trudge in this rain to the market and in my mental checklist realize I have two more stores to visit. My irritation with the little men riding with me mounts as they become more and more excited and get in the way of my plans. My patience wears thin as I feel there is so much left to do, and yet, the sands of time are slipping through the hour glass and I feel that even my bones are tired.

As I read the Word I was reminded that God chose me. The sacrifice of His only Son to save me from my frustration, irritation, impatience and other daily sins merits all the strength I have to sing praise to Him and bless His name. As if I needed another reason, I read again and again "Give thanks to the Lord, for His is good, His steadfast love endures forever." I Chr. 16:34, 2 Chr. 7:3, Ez. 3:11, Ps. 136:1. In all of time, He is has not changed. Even with the uncertainty of "future", He is not going to change. He loves me steadfastly. He will endure in His love for me, despite what I do. That is worth a lifetime of thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving is my response to who He is and what He has done for me. The more I learn of Him, the more thanks I want to give Him. It tunes my heart to His will. It prepares me to do good works. It allows his enduring love to spill out of me onto others. Oh give thanks to the Lord!!

Father, thank you so much for choosing me! Thank you for the great lengths you went to to show your love for me. Thank you for calling me your friend even though I am forgetful of you. Thank you for hearing my prayers, understanding my moods and forgiving my inconsistency. You are worthy of all praise! I proclaim my thanksgiving to you Jesus Christ, Lord of all. Amen.


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

It's Not Too Late

by Sue Donaldson


It’s not too late to invite someone else for Thanksgiving dinner! Go outside on your front porch and check out the neighborhood.

Often, the best company turns out to be last minute invitations. Ask the Lord, “Is there someone who could use a place at my table? (Or, more than one someone?)”

You may fret:
“I don’t have enough chairs . . .enough placemats . . .enough food. . .enough time. Besides, wouldn’t they be insulted to be asked so late??”

Enough, already.

Just ask. It’s always nice to be asked.

Paul asked Philemon: “Get the guest room ready – I hope to be there soon.” (Philemon, verse 22) Maybe someone is asking God : “Lord, I need to be welcomed by You and Your family – who do You have in mind?” May we all be willing to be the answer to that prayer. I’m sure Philemon got the sheets ready as soon as he got that letter – well, probably his wife got the sheets ready. .

Add a potato to the pot and get on the phone. Maybe that new guest will find Jesus at your table or on your front porch. Now that’s a great Thanksgiving.

Father,
Is there someone out there who still needs an invitation? Give me grace and courage and direction. Prepare me and my house to be Your welcome. Amen.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Thanksgiving Meditation

by Peggy Brown

Since this week is Thanksgiving, I wanted to focus on that, and I will post “Passing the Baton Part II” next week.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t spend enough time being thankful. I get so caught up in daily life that I forget to notice, let alone express gratitude for, all of God’s wonderful gifts. Thanksgiving always provides me with the impetus to stop and consider God’s many blessings.

Those of you who attend POW sang this hymn last week, but it touched me and I wanted to contemplate the words again.

Thanks to God for My Redeemer
August L. Storm 1891

Thanks to God for my Redeemer, thanks for all Thou dost provide!
Thanks for times now but a memory, thanks for Jesus by my side!
Thanks for pleasant, balmy springtime, thanks for dark and dreary fall!
Thanks for tears by now forgotten, thanks for peace within my soul!

Thanks for prayers that Thou hast answered, thanks for what Thou dost deny!
Thanks for storms that I have weathered, thanks for all Thou dost supply!
Thanks for pain and thanks for pleasure, thanks for comfort in despair!
Thanks for grace that none can measure, thanks for love beyond compare!

Thanks for roses by the wayside, thanks for thorns their stems contain!
Thanks for homes and thanks for fireside, thanks for hope, that sweet refrain!
Thanks for joy and thanks for sorrow, thanks for heavenly peace with Thee!
Thanks for hope in the tomorrow, thanks through all eternity!

Psalm 40:5
Many, O Lord my God, are the wonders which Thou hast done,
And Thy thoughts toward us;
There is none to compare with Thee;
If I would declare and speak of them,
They would be too numerous to count.


Father, God of every good and perfect gift, I thank You. Thank you that You don’t give me what I deserve, You give me all of Your riches in Christ Jesus. I am thankful for my family (and that new grandson “in the oven”!), for my dear friends, for my church which challenges me and for opportunities to serve. I pray for each woman reading these words…may she see her life in terms of Your blessings, no matter what her situation! Give us all grateful hearts. Amen

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Your Word...

by Missy Grant
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” Psalm 119:105

This is a verse from the Lord’s word that I term “fully loaded.” The initial imagery is heart warming and enchanting, but, have you ever really sat down and meditated on the words of this well known scripture? Let’s take a few minutes and single out these precious words and see if the Lord brings new insight to you.

What is a lamp and what is a light? Are they one in the same? Do they perform the same purpose?

A lamp is a fixture, it is tangible, you can feel it, hold it, move it. A lamp has texture and weight. That being said, what is the word, lamp, referencing in this verse? The answer is the Lord’s Word. “Your word is a lamp…” His Word was a gift to us. A gift of encouragement that we can hold in our hands (in this country), or hold in our hearts (keep memorizing). It is never changing yet dynamic (which means ever changing) at the same time. How is that possible? Only the Holy Spirit knows…it gives us direction and makes known the unknown to us. His Word admonishes and encourages, convicts and heals. His Word draws us to Him (Psalm 145:18). But this grouping of words we hold so dear is just a foreshadow of this, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of Men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.John 1:1-5.

Ahhh…did you see it? “…and the life was the Light of Men.” (note the capitalization of the word Light). What does a light do? It shows us things we would not see without it. A light can also give us direction. A light can provide a sense of security. If you are in the dark and there is a light at the end of the road – we naturally move toward it. Do you see how Christ was and is the ‘Light of Men’? His life and work on the cross showed us things we would not have seen such as our sin and the need for his atoning sacrifice. His light gives us direction towards the heavenly father. His light provides eternal security. When the above scripture says, “…a light to my path.”, what is being implied? Ask yourself, what is the lamp again? Yep, His Word. What does John 1:1 say, “…and the Word was God.” What did the light do? It provided a well lit pathway - to where - to Him.

We can take this scripture at face value and receive much insight from the imagery. Yet, if we dig a bit deeper and focus on His Word, the lamp and the light, our feet and the path…hmmnnn….what might the Lord be showing you today?

This is what He showed me…Almighty Lord, you are the alpha and the omega. Your blood stained finger prints are in every word of your Word. Your Word is a lamp, lit with the Holy Spirit and burning with an eternal flame. In your everlasting love for me, you chose me – even when racked with sin – you chose me. Your light revealed that which I did not want to see – yet was made perfect and unblemished in your sacrifice. There is no love like that of the cross. May my feet follow the light of your paths of righteousness. To your glory, amen.