Devotion Archives 2022, January - April

 

A Journey of the Heart (Epiphany): The Journey of the Magi

by Karen Maio

     

     During Advent, we focused on the journey of the heart leading up to our Savior’s birth.

     The next journey belongs to a group of highly intelligent, observant people from the East, who saw a new star appear in the night sky. They knew that this star was a sign of the birth of a king. It was an epiphany which revealed Jesus our Savior, the Light of the world, to not only the Jews, but to Gentiles—the whole world! So these magi packed up valuable gifts for him and set out in a caravan away from their homes on a long, difficult journey into the west.

When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.” Matthew 2:10-11 NIV

    Their purpose in the journey was clear. They were coming to honor the new King and to bring their gifts: gold, the gift of a king; frankincense, the rare incense used by priests in prayer; and myrrh, the spice used for anointing the dead, a sign of the sacrifice that Jesus would one day make as our Savior from sin.

     The purpose of our journey is the same. When we follow the Christmas star to Jesus, we come to glorify him and honor the King of kings with our gifts of time, talent, and treasure for his kingdom.

 

As with gladness men of old did the guiding star behold,

So, most gracious Lord, may we evermore your followers be.

All our costliest treasures we bring, Christ, to you, our heavenly King. (Christian Worship 83)

A WORD for Women
 

A Leaning on a Spider's Web by Diana Kerr

     

     Tell me about your biggest stressors, the things you strive for, and the things you’re attached to, and I bet I can tell you what it is that you trust in this life. Many of us are unconsciously led by these misguided reliance’s and beliefs.

   Some of us lean on our marriages or our families, believing that the key to a good life is a strong family unit. Some of us lean on money, believing that financial stability will pave the way to peace. Some of us lean on our accomplishments, believing that we’re worth more when we cross off a bunch of stuff on our to-do lists.

   We all do this in some form or another. Our sinful hearts are not as allegiant to God as we think they are and as we want them to be. So we lean on earthly things, often good blessings from our Lord, but those things are so much less reliable than we realize.

   The book of Job talks about this challenge and describes the actions of those who have forgotten God: “What they trust in is fragile; what they rely on is a spider’s web. They lean on the web, but it gives way; they cling to it, but it does not hold” (8:14,15).

   Friend, what are you clinging to that’s as weak as a spider’s web? What if you put that thing back in its rightful place in your heart and lean on God? I promise you it’d be a game changer.

   Devotion used by permission of Time of Grace®. For more information visit www.timeofgrace.org

A WORD for Women

Perfectly Imperfect by April Cooper

     

How many of us are guilty of retaking photos over and over again to get that perfect pose, perfect smile, and perfect stance? I know I am guilty of that. I imagine for most mothers, the retakes of family photos simply comes from the joy mothers want displayed. As a mother of four, I personally want my family pictures to be a representation of all that we are as a family, showcasing the bountiful beauty and infinite number of blessings. Have you ever been to a professional photographer and at the end of the photo session there were a ton of pictures to choose from? The hard task is to then select the perfect shot! The question becomes what constitutes that perfect shot?

 

Let’s think about the “bigger picture” from a different perspective. Almost everyone has driven through a wealthy neighborhood with huge houses and perfectly manicured lawns. From the outside looking in, everything looks spectacular and intact — with stereotypical assumptions about those who live there. On the flip side, most people have also ridden along the streets of a “non-wealthy” neighborhood. The houses can sometimes depict less attention given to what is on the outside of the homes. And just like the wealthy families, the families that live in the “non-wealthy” neighborhood can fall into superficial stereotypes placed upon them as well.

 

For a moment, let's not focus on what neighborhood, street, or type of house a person or family lives in. Instead, let's focus on what happens inside those houses. Life, love, joy, sadness, happiness, pain, laughter, tears, and triumphs can touch each and every house, regardless. Good and bad times can be found in EVERY neighborhood. Can we sum up what's happening inside every home simply by the characteristics visible outside? A resounding no, we can not. Likewise, does a photo capturing one moment in time sum up the state of all going on with every individual shown in a photo? Also, a resounding no!

 

Let's refocus on those photographic retakes. Taking multiple photos typically comes from a family member not cooperating, sometimes purposefully (if they are kids) or by mistake if the sunlight is too bright, or if a sneeze suddenly erupts, etc. Frowns, lighting, weather, and all types of circumstances, including moods and the relationships in that given moment between those in the photo can all seemingly dictate multiple retakes.

 

But, what if we stopped aiming for perfection in our photos and simply aimed to capture the moment? Whatever that moment holds… blinks, frowns, turned heads, uncontrollable laughter, or uninterested participants — those ARE the moments of life that make life, life. There is absolutely nothing perfect in this life, nothing. So why do we try to capture perfect moments in photos? The saying goes, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” The journey of life year-by-year, month-by-month, week-by-week, day-by-day, and moment-by-moment is beautiful. And, the ups, downs, the joys, and the challenges are all classified by the eye of the beholder. When looking at past photos, do you see a full representation of life experiences so far? You should. That means no photo can ever be perfect because this earthly life has not been, is not, and will not, be perfect.

 

As I get older and as my kids get older, I see myself and my beautiful family as perfectly imperfect. And I love what I see because the love and grace from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ has us covered. I am sure my family wishes I had realized all of this sooner. If I had… there would have been significantly fewer family photo retakes! I chuckle at the photos that capture the regular moments, the everyday moments, the blurriness from action and laughter, and everything in between. I love all of my family photos, because every one of them captured something beautiful.

 

What is perfect? Scripture tells us that “God’s way is perfect. All the LORD’s promises prove true. He is a shield for all who look to him for protection. For who is God except the LORD? Who but our God is a solid rock? God arms me with strength, and he makes my way perfect.” (Psalm 18:30-32 NLT) Let’s focus on that! I am SO VERY thankful that He makes my way perfect.

 
A WORD for Women

Love Temperature by Kathy Schreiner

     

     You have probably heard about “cold justice”; but what about “cold love”?  In Matthew 24 Jesus talks about the love of many growing cold in the end times.  What is your love temperature? One of the most chilling results of the pandemic is the way it has divided us.  Not just as a nation, but as families and Christians.  Try to imagine the smile on the face of Satan and his minions at these divisions. Were you one of those who wanted to be first in line for the "jab" or are you one of those who will not take it under any circumstances?  It really does not matter what side you fall on.  What does matter is how we treat each other.

      As always, God has given us the answer in His Word.  And He sums it up with only one word-LOVE.

     Are you afraid?  Many are.  What are you really afraid of, the consequences of taking the jab or not taking it?  Read 1 John 4:18a "There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear; "This passage is talking about love and punishment.

     Ultimately our fears all come down to what will happen to us or those we love. But why worry?  Worry is a sin.  But our loving, faithful, all-knowing God has given us the solution for worry.  1 Peter 5:7 tells us: "Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you." 

     With the perfect love of Jesus, we need not worry.  Are you getting the theme?  It is not our ever-changing circumstances, it is LOVE!

     "Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love." Ephesians 4:2

     There are many opinions floating around.  You can find a web site to confirm or deny whatever is said.  Yet we learn new things about this insidious virus daily.  What is fact and what is fiction?  How can we know? Will we ever know for sure? 

     "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away." 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

     As Christians we are to set the example for the world.  No matter what side of this divisive issue you are on. It is not just a suggestion; it is a command from the Author and Perfector of LOVE-Jesus!

     "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another." John 13:34

 
A WORD for Women

To Whom do you belong? by Kathy Schreiner

     

                Have you watched the nightly news lately? YIKES! Our country is a mess. I was recently sent a quote that really resonated with me.

                "Don't let the ELEPHANTS and the DONKEYS let you forget you belong to the LAMB"

                I shared that quote at a bible study on the New Testament book, “Acts”. In the bible, “Acts” records the beginnings of the Christian Church following the death of Jesus. It includes a list of Jesus' disciples. What an interesting group. Two in particular would fit right in our current culture.

                Simon the Zealot was anti-Roman government. He wanted the existing (Roman) government gone and the Jewish nation restored to power. Doing so with violence was not off the table for him. He was looking for a Messiah that would be a powerful, earthly ruler.

                Matthew (Levi) the Publican, worked for the hated Roman government as a tax collector. Tax collectors were not known for their honesty. In fact, they made their living by cheating their fellow Jews. They were hated and ostracized.

                Jesus personally called these two men to be part of His inner circle. To learn from Him so they could build the church as His representatives. One would think this might be an insurmountable task, to get these two to work towards the same goal. In Luke 1:37 we are told "For nothing will be impossible with God."

                Are you finding conflict with fellow believers in these turbulent times? "What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun." (Ecclesiastes 1:9) There will always be differences of opinions.

                Yet in Jesus, Simon and Matthew came together. We can too. They did not let their political differences make them forget they belonged to the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Just like them we belong to the Lamb. Jesus bought and paid for us. “You were bought at a price.” (1 Corinthians 6:20a) That price was Jesus' life.

                I encourage you to read and re-read if needed, Hebrews 12:14-15, “Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.”

                No matter your political affiliation, you belong to the Lamb.

 
A WORD for Women

A Journey of the Heart: Next Stop, the Cross by Karen Maio

     

                We began our "Journey of the heart" series in December (2021) during the season of Advent, which prepared our hearts for the celebration of the birth of Jesus.

                Our journey did not end at the manger with Mary and the Christ-child gazing into each other's eyes. It continued with the journey the magi made to honor the newborn king with gifts and continues on to Calvary, where Mary would see her precious son, Jesus, crucified according to God’s holy plan of salvation.  Jesus was born to die for the sins of the world.

                “Christ Jesus, who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death- even death on a cross!”  (Philippians 2:5-8)

 

In lowliness you came to earth To rescue us from Satan’s snares,                                             

O wondrous Love that healed our wounds By taking on our mortal cares.

To pay the debt we owed for sin, Your painful cross was made the price;                

From blessed Mary’s womb you came, A victim pure for sacrifice.

Lord Jesus Christ, you set us free - Accept our thanks eternally!

Forgiven through your precious blood, We now are reconciled to God.

(O Lord of Light Who Made the Stars, Christian Worship)

 
A WORD for Women

A Journey of the Heart: Next Stop, the Empty Tomb by Karen Maio

     

                Our journey of the heart which began in Advent while preparing for Jesus’ birth did not end with Lent’s stop at the cross and Jesus’ death.

                Early the next morning, some of the women who were at the foot of Jesus’ cross, went to the tomb where Jesus had been laid. They came prepared with spices used in burials, but wondered how they were going to roll the stone away from the opening. They were shocked to see it had already been moved and an angel was sitting on top of it!

                “The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him’.” (Matthew 28:5-7)

                Easter’s empty tomb, Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, was God’s stamp of approval on our salvation. Our sins are forgiven! Satan is defeated! Death has been conquered - his victory over death will result in believers’ victorious life eternal! Joyfully celebrate!

                We know that our redeemer lives and is with us, and this gives us confidence to share this wonderful Gospel story and to face whatever lies ahead on our journey.

                God, thank you for helping us see past the empty tomb to our glorious risen Savior! Help us share him with others and stand firm in our faith! In Jesus’ name. Amen.

 
A WORD for Women