A WORD for the Week | Archives 4
76. Picture Perfect by Carolyn Webb
Are you a good photographer? I am not. When I take pictures, they typically are out of focus and off-center. Even with the new cameras where everything is automatic, I don’t produce good pictures. Recently, I had the opportunity to view some of the most spectacular photographs I have ever seen. Every detail was crisp and the colors brilliant. The reflections on the lakes of these landscape pictures were crystal clear. The photos were so breathtaking it felt like I was seeing nature for the first time.
As I reflect on these perfect pictures and the blurry, poorly framed images produced when I take photos, a Bible verse came to mind: I Corinthians 13:12 “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” Right now, what I know about God is clouded by my imperfect nature. I can only partially understand what His will is and what His plans for me are. When I meet Him face to face I will be able to see him clearly. I will be able to know Him as completely as He knows me. I can’t even begin to imagine what it will be like to see true perfection. What an amazing moment it will be to see God fully in all His splendor, to know His perfect will!
77. Foolishness by Carolyn Webb
Have you ever felt foolish for believing what you believe? I have to admit that on more than one occasion I have felt like a fool. As a Medical Laboratory Scientist I’ve had a lot of formal training in man’s attempts to understand God’s creation. How then can I believe all this stuff in the Bible that contradicts what science has proven?
I recall listening to a sermon about creation when I was in my 20s. Through the whole sermon my brain was having an argument with my soul. It went something like this:
Brain: This is ridiculous. You’re a well-educated individual. How can you possibly believe God created everything in 7 days?
Soul: Isn’t believing without proof what faith is all about?
Brain: Sure, but scientific evidence shows a link between species. Evolution is an accepted theory.
Soul: You did just say theory. It is not a proven scientific fact. No one can make it happen. No one has been able to recreate the “big bang”. No one has been able to change a living thing from one species to another. Basically, accepting evolution is an act of faith also, but in this case it is faith in the ideas of man. Do you want to put your faith in man’s ideas which are sure to change or in God’s story which has remained the same for centuries?
Brain: When you put it that way I have to agree that believing the creation story is a better way to go. After all if I start picking and choosing the parts of the Bible I want to believe, then all my Bible beliefs are at risk.
If I didn’t accept God’s story of creation, how would I accept God’s story of salvation “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the Power of God.” (I Corinthians 1:18) Surely if I started rejecting parts of the Bible based on my knowledge, it wouldn’t take long before I found the message of salvation through Jesus to be too foolish to believe.
I have to agree with Martin Luther’s explanation to the third article. “I cannot by my own thinking or choosing believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, nor come to him. But the Holy Spirit has called me by the gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith.” I’m thankful that the Holy Spirit was able to convince me to leave my wisdom behind and accept God’s foolishness. You can call me a fool; it’s ok.
78. ‘Let Go and Let God’ is Easier Said Than Done. By Julie Luetke
So just how do we let go and let God? Here is an illustration that might help.
Let's say your 3 year old comes to you with a torn strap on her backpack for preschool. She shows it to you and asks you to fix it. She goes off to play and never gives that torn strap another thought. She knows she has given the problem over to someone who loves her, and is capable and happy to handle the problem. She does not know or concern herself with how you will fix the problem.
That is the way we are to turn our worries over to the Living God. This is the great Almighty, Father Son and Holy Spirit, who loves us and is capable and happy to help. Pretty simple isn’t it, no headache from worrying, no irritability from the stress of the problem and no micro managing?
God tells us we must have faith like a little child. The little girl in the story has complete faith that you can fix her backpack. She doesn’t care if you use a needle and thread to connect the torn pieces or replace the strap with a new one. You might see fit to replace the whole backpack. She trusts your methods completely. You are Mom. She has the faith of a child.
Many verses come to mind to teach us this simple lesson about worrying. My two favorites are:
1 Peter 5:7 Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.
Psalm 46:10a Be still and know that I am God.
So be still and know that the God who loves you and is capable to help is on the job.
79. Catch Some PME! By Christine Wentzel
I've got P.M.E. and I want to give it to you!
However, before I can offer some PME, I need to think about my own personal ministry. What exactly does that mean? For that matter, what does the word “ministry” mean? One obvious definition is that it’s a service or function of a minister. Another, more personalized definition is that it’s a person through which something is accomplished. Ah, now we’re getting somewhere.
So how does this work for you and me?
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. Psalm 139:13-14
Our Creator, knew us before He made us. We are the clay in His artistic Hands. An artist will tell you that the process of creating something is accomplished with tender loving care and awe-inspired wonder at its completion. Each has a vision of the finished product and the function it’s to serve and so they spend a lot of time choosing the right materials to bring together the functioning whole. How much more did our Father take care when putting us together to make a functioning, useful, much-loved whole!
Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully. Romans 12:4-8
Notice Paul, through the Holy Spirit, says “We have different gifts…” He is saying right now, this very moment, we have the abilities to function in His service! There are no ifs, buts or maybes about it.
Also note his word to describe the gifts—they’re different, there’s variety! No doubt, there are many more abilities to list and it’s just a matter of figuring out ours. Sometimes when thinking about this our expectations tend to focus on what we wish we could do instead of what we can do, what we are doing right now.
Think about all the things, big and small, you did this past week. What did you do well? What put a smile on your face? What came fairly easy? Usually these are good clues to what your God-given abilities are.
Start your personal ministry this week by including yourself in your prayers. Ask the Holy Spirit, who lives in your heart, to show the talents you already use. Then be aware of your activities throughout the day and take note of those that fit the qualifying questions above.
You just caught some PME so, now you have the opportunity to give it to someone else!
80. A Special Invitation by Karen Spiegelberg
Isn't it exciting when you receive an invitation in the mail for a party or special event? You check your calendar to see if you'll indeed be able to attend. You RSVP, maybe buy a new dress and perhaps make special arrangements for a babysitter or care of a loved one. This week, you are being sent a "special invitation" from God, a cordial invitation to visit the manger, the birthplace of a little baby born in Bethlehem many years ago. With this invitation, everyone is welcome. This is not an exclusive invitation sent only to the elite, or one that requires a tuxedo, formal gown or clearance by the Secret Service. When you arrive, you will not be cleared through security, but you will be greeted by the Christ Child, Jesus, the one who was prophesied to come, the one who would then die on the cross for the iniquities of us all and through whom we have assurance of life eternal. That alone causes reason to celebrate, to gather together and in doing so, to embrace a deep-abiding joy that expresses itself in our lives long after the festivities are over. So, this week, take time to "visit" the manger and acknowledge the wonder of the Christ child and you will never be turned away or called a "party crasher" as the recent attendees to the White House were, because at the manger, everyone is invited!
"My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior"-- Luke 1:46
Wishing you and yours a blessed Christmas from everyone at "A Word For Women". You are truly a blessing and encouragement to the ministry.
81. Spring Cleaning the Lions’ Den by Tracy Hankwitz
Anyone tired of snow yet (for those of you in the Midwest)? I’ve caught myself wondering more than once if winter will ever end. My mom, the eternal optimist, always says, “February is a short month and March has some warm days” reminding me that the long days of winter will soon give way to warmer days of spring. And with spring comes a time of renewal and growth and – spring cleaning.
Growing up, I remember my mom giving the house a good cleaning from top to bottom every spring. I don’t know how many women still make spring cleaning an annual ritual, but I’m going to suggest that this year you give it a try - with a little twist. Instead of cleaning your house, let’s spring clean the lions’ den.
The lions’ den? Yes, the lions’ den. I recently heard a sermon on Daniel and the precarious situation he was thrown in. It wasn’t until this sermon that I saw the relevance this well-known Bible story has to my life. The pastor asked the question, “What is your lions’ den?” I’ve been thinking about that a lot – what is my lions’ den? And I’m asking you to ask yourself the same question.
Have you fallen into a pit of bad habits like overspending, gossiping, or skipping personal time spent with your Lord? Have you been lured into the pit of delights that this world offers (come on, admit that you just can’t miss the latest episode of “Desperate Housewives”). Maybe it’s the pit of selfishness, the thinking that I’m going to do what I want to do, those things that please me. And then there are the pits that we actually jump into – the pits of temptation and secret sins. We know God doesn’t want us to do certain things, but we fool ourselves into thinking that it’s not that bad or no one knows about it. (BTW – there is no such thing as a secret sin!).
These examples might not seem much like a lions’ den, but don’t be fooled – the lions are there waiting in the darkness to rip you apart limb from limb. "Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion waiting for someone to devour" (I Peter 5:8) The devil plays mind games, but the fight for your soul is no game. Each one of our sins pounded the nails into Jesus’ hands and feet. Each one is weighing us down, pulling us further into that pit and no matter how we try, we cannot save ourselves. Only God can help us out of that deep cavern. His mighty hand shuts the lions’ mouths, his love and forgiveness pulls us out and the blood Jesus shed on the cross seals the pit so when we fall back in (which we will), we have his promise that he’ll be there for us.
So open the windows and air out the closets of your heart. Along with the psalmist, ask “Search me, O God, and know my heart” (Ps. 139:23). Expose those dark corners to God’s light of truth, and he will scrub them clean so they are as white as snow. It’s scary to allow yourself to be so vulnerable, and it’s not easy. As someone so wisely said, “You can do the easy thing, or you can do the right thing.” Remember that God loves you. You are his precious child and his mercies are new every morning. Coming clean with confession and repentance is liberating and refreshing, and best of all, through Christ it has life-giving results!
God's blessings on your week and...happy cleaning!
82. A Simple Crossword Puzzle by Julie Luetke
Do you enjoy the puzzles in the newspaper? After I have had a few minutes of exercise and breakfast, it is time for the daily comics and a puzzle. Sometimes by the time the puzzle is done the clock tells me, “Get moving; times a wasting”! So, the day begins, but I have neglected to spend a few minutes with Jesus.
Sometimes days go by or even weeks and I have not gotten back to the Word I love, the Word that sustains me in all situations, the Word that saves me for all eternity, the personal words from my God to me. I have not once ignored the puzzle in the paper. I have even gotten better at it. It takes less time and I am proud of the accomplishment.
I stumbled on to a little paperback that is quite an eye opener. It is just a simple crossword puzzle book. I found it while cleaning at church. It was going to be thrown away. The puzzler in me couldn’t resist. The book is full of Bible puzzles. As I did the puzzle on Jonah, I was pulled to the pages of my Bible for a few of the answers. Instantly I was reminded how much I love God’s Word. A simple crossword puzzle meant for children brought me back where I belong. One question took me to the prayer Jonah prayed from inside the fish.
The first nine verses of chapter 2 is Jonah’s prayer. The tenth and final verse of the chapter is Jonah’s rescue. The prayer begins:
“In my distress I called to the Lord and He answered me.
From the depths of the grave I called to you and you listened to my cry.
….You brought my life up from the pit…
Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs. But I, with a song of thanksgiving, will sacrifice to you….Salvation comes from the Lord”
It is so easy to fill our days with foolish things that waste our time. Spending time in God’s Word makes our whole day go smoother. If reading the Bible is hard to make time for, try the Bible on CD for in the car, MP3 while you go walking, have someone read to you while you clean up the kitchen. Listening to the Bible stories read by your children will leave a lasting impression on them. Having your husband read to you will bind a marriage. Maybe you need to get a Bible crossword puzzle book
It was just a simple crossword puzzle, but it took me back where I needed to be.
Thank you, Jesus.
12. Busy! Busy! Busy!
23. Your Piece in God's Plan
85. The Love Dare
125. The Love Resolution
206. Choosing God's Buffet
66. Yesterday the kids and I were driving home from track...
119. One of the Youth Group members said that he didn’t have time...
51. Every day I'm faced with a number of choices and decisions that...
83. God is Almighty by Janet Gehlhar
I have found great comfort when I meditate on God's character . . . almighty, holy, merciful, faithful, sovereign . . . and to think that this is MY God and He uses all of His abilities in His plan for me. Knowing God has never broken even one promise, and knowing that He is omniscient (knows all), it is much easier for me to be at peace when traumatic events happen or just when everyday annoyances are getting the best of me.
I belong to God and He is in control of my life. He is too wise to make a mistake. He alone can see what is best for me for today and for the future. What a relief it isn't all up to me!
Jeremiah 32:17 - Ah, Sovereign LORD, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you.
I remind myself that when life seems too hard for me, it is God who is on my side, and I am secure.
84. A Powerful Name, a Small Detail by Julie Luetke
As we approach Easter we think about the events leading up to Jesus' death and resurrection. In Mark 14:61-62 Jesus is on trial before the Sanhedrin and the High Priest Caiaphas presides.
61 But Jesus remained silent and gave no answer. Again the high priest asked him, "Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?"
62 "I am," said Jesus. "And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven."
It must have been amazing for all present to hear Jesus say this. Similar words said in the garden a few hours earlier made the soldiers fall down. As I am writing this, I prayed God would make my words insightful and not just an opinion. God answered that prayer instantly.
Here is what I believe He wants us to take note of: In the garden when Jesus asked the soldiers whom they were looking for and they said, "Jesus of Nazareth", they fell to the ground when he answered.
John 18:6 When Jesus said, "I am he," they drew back and fell to the ground.
This was to strengthen the disciples one last time. At no other name would a brave soldier fall to the ground upon its hearing. In the trial before the Sanhedrin and Caiaphas Peter was listening from the courtyard. Peter later wrote about Jesus' trial in 1 Peter 2.
1 Peter 2: 22-23 22 "He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth."
23 When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.
Peter needed to see Jesus submit to the suffering and death for our sin. Peter needed to be a witness for all time that Jesus is the true God and our savior from all sin.
Through the study of God's Word, I am convinced that little details recorded in scripture are not little at all. When putting together a 1500-piece puzzle, one piece of the puzzle is small and seems insignificant; yet if that one piece is missing at the end, we will search for it and possibly throw the puzzle away if not found. Every detail of God's word is recorded for a purpose.
We, like Peter, need to see the soldiers falling to the ground upon hearing the name Jesus. We also need, like Peter, to be a witness for all time that Jesus willingly suffered in our place.
On Easter, let us joyfully celebrate with Christians all over the world that Jesus is truly the King of kings and Lord of lords. Halleluiah!
85. The Love Dare by Tracy Hankwitz
'How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.' - Elizabeth Barrett Browning
It's always made me a little uncomfortable anytime our relationship with God is set in a romantic context.
Falling in love with God.
Just doesn't seem right to look it like that.
Maybe it's my German-Lutheran upbringing.
Yet as I study more about Him
delving deeper in the Word,
I see the Bible as one long love letter to me -
to each of us.
How many times does He say "I love you"?
Over and over again, it's written with every stroke of pen.
From the very beginning, when I turned my back on Him in the Garden of Eden
lied and hid from Him,
He still sought me,
and gave me a promise that would demonstrate the greatness of His love.
Through the books of the Old Testament,
when the obstinate people of Israel constantly turned from Him
He said, "I have loved you."
Isn't that me?
Every thoughtless sin a slap in His face,
every time I insist on doing life my way,
His heart hurts,
yet still He says, "I love you."
How can I read Song of Solomon and not see it?
The vastness and tenderness of a love so deep and personal.
Woven through the life of Jesus
every act was done out of love,
every motive was love
even the cross . . .
the ultimate act of love
each step taken to Calvary
was taken with a heart full of love.
And even though I pounded nails in His hands
He. Still. Loves. Me.
How can I not fall in love with a God who loves me like that?
A God who relentlessly pursues me,
who holds my bare heart, sees me and knows me
yet loves me unconditionally -
no matter what I have done
or how many times I have done it
And He. Still. Loves. Me.
He woos me with daily reminders of His love.
Each blessing a gift
for me to unwrap and see
that nothing, absolutely nothing
can separate me from His love.
Who can say that about any relationship?
No matter how many times your heart has been broken, hurt, or disappointed,
I challenge you to take this love dare:
Open yourself up and dare to be loved like this.
Trust your heart to the One who treasures you and will never hurt you.
Open your eyes to see the gifts He lavishes on you.
Open those love letters bound within Scripture,
it's there that He's waiting to say to you:
"How do I love Thee? Let me count the ways."
Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm;
for love is as strong as death,
its jealousy unyielding as the grave.
It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame.
- Song of Songs 8:6
86. The Power of Meditation by Carolyn Webb
If you have been diagnosed with a stress related illness, you have probably been told that meditation would be good for you. If you ever took childbirth classes, you were probably taught to meditate on an object or phrase to ease the pain of labor. The term meditation refers to a broad variety of practices that includes technique designed to promote relaxation, build internal energy and develop compassion, love, patience, generosity and forgiveness. The goal of meditation is to occupy the mind with something desirable and eliminate undesirable thoughts. The potential benefits of meditation include improved immunity, lower blood pressure, increased fertility, and emotional balance just to name a few.
The Bible talks about meditation too, but not about meditating on one's breath or guided meditation through a forest. There are multiple references in the book of Psalms reminding us to meditate on God's Word.
Psalm 1:1-2 Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.
Psalm 77:12 I will meditate on all your works and consider all your mighty deeds.
Psalm 119:15-16 I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word.
Psalm 119:97, 99 Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long. I have more insight than all my teachers, for I meditate on your statues.
Psalm 119:164-165 Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous law. Great peace have they who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble.
While meditating on your breath can slow your heart rate, lower blood pressure, and quiet your mind, meditating on God's Word can bring true peace and true wisdom. When the troubles of this world come crashing in, turn to God's Word and meditate on His promises.
John 16:33 I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.
87. The Spirit God Gave Us by Talia Spiegelberg
Some time ago, I was on my way to my next class at the University of Wisconsin when a woman stopped me in the middle of campus. She asked if I could help her find a shelter. Specifically, a shelter for battered women and children. She then proceeded to tell me how she thought she had done everything right in life. She had married her high school sweetheart and things were great until they started to go downhill recently. She needed to get to this shelter because she was afraid that when her husband was released from jail
that very day he would come after her. I could not believe what I was hearing. I could tell she legitimately needed help, but I wasn't sure how I could offer any assistance. I offered to pay for a cab to the shelter and she graciously accepted the money. I knew I would regret it if I didn't take a moment to remind her that everything was going to be okay because God always has a plan for our lives. She accepted the message with gratitude and even pulled out a pocket Bible to show she had faith.
I wanted to do more to help her, but at the time all I could do was give her money for a cab, a few Bible passages I had from a life group, and a hug. The rest, I left in God's hands.
For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. 2 Timothy 1:7
This is one of the passages I gave her. Could it be any more fitting for both of us? She needed a spirit of power in her moment when she felt so helpless and weak. I needed a spirit of power and love to help her in this time of great need. I had always wondered how I would react if I found myself in a situation like that. Everyone always says that you have no idea where the words come from- the Holy Spirit takes over and the words just flow from your mouth, and that is exactly what happened.
I didn't tell you this story to boast about how I did such a noble thing for this woman and how I'm such a great Christian, and how I always know exactly what to say to people in need. Honestly, it is the complete opposite. I did what felt right in my heart to do for her and the only reason I had that was because God put it there. I also had no idea what to say but I prayed hard that God would speak through me.
I pray that God does the exact same thing for you the next time you find yourself in a difficult situation with someone. I pray that He gives you and me a continued spirit of power, love, and self-discipline as we are refreshed and renewed by the Christmas spirit of his love and life made flesh... and as we enter into 2016!
88. Advent Treasures by Carolyn Webb
Think for a moment about the most amazing thing you have ever witnessed or experienced. For me, it was the birth of my children. After nine months of waiting to see their beautiful faces, the sparkle in their eyes, to touch their tiny fingers and toes; it seemed almost magical to see the beautiful babies that started out as the joining of two single cells.
Thinking about the miracle of birth makes me wonder what this experience must have been like for Mary, the mother of Jesus: What would it have been like to be visited by an angel telling me that I was going to give birth to God’s son? Would I have realized that history had been shaped specifically so my baby would be born in Bethlehem? What would it feel like to see that baby’s face after nine months of waiting and know that I was looking at the face of God? Would it be strange to have shepherds and foreign kings travel to bow down and worship my baby? It surely must have been a lot to take in “. It’s no wonder the Bible tells us in Luke 2:19 “Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”
There is so much to marvel about during the Advent/Christmas season. Much of it seems so unbelievable: conception of a baby between God and an ordinary young woman, angels presenting the birth announcement, a star leading wise men to the infant, and so many more miracles. We will never be able to understand how these things can be, but like Mary, we can ponder them in our hearts and view with wonder the story of God coming to earth in human form.
Heavenly Father, As we prepare for Christmas, give us the eyes to see the true treasures that are present in the story of salvation. Don’t let us get caught up in the commercialism of the world’s celebration, but help us to be like Mary and treasure the miracle of your coming to earth and ponder it in our hearts. Amen.
89. Living a Thank-filled Life byTracy Hankwitz
"It is not happy people who are thankful, but thankful people who are happy".
Perhaps you've seen this saying floating around on social media. There is definitely truth in it, but there's something missing.
There is something deeper than happiness that we experience when we are thankful - and that is JOY.
Isn't that what we all crave?
True joy, deep-down-in-the-soul joy, a joy that doesn't change with the life's shifting winds.
The secret to getting that joy is this:
That's it. Simple. Just give thanks.
Thanksgiving Day holds much gratitude and joy - singing hymns of praise in worship, gathering with loved-ones for delicious food that sustains, and thanking God for blessings.
But what about beyond that day in November?
St. Paul tells us: 'Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.' I Thes. 5:16-18
Wait, what? Give thanks in ALL things? In ALL circumstances?
How can I be grateful when the kids are fighting and the house is in total chaos?
How can I be grateful when I lose someone dear to me or lose my job?
How can I be grateful when I'm facing an overwhelming mountain of bills?
How can I be grateful when my spouse leaves me or if I'm told that I have cancer?
Let's look to Jesus for the answer:
The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me." I Cor. 11:23-24
Do you see it? Or do eyes read but not truly comprehend those two, familiar, significant words:
when he had given thanks
On the very night that Judas would betray him, his hands would be bound, stand an unfair trial, be mocked, whipped, beaten, and finally have huge iron nails pounded through his flesh . . . and hang there on that cross . . .
How is it that knowing all of this, Jesus sat with his closest friends that night and gave thanks? He took the bread, gave thanks, and give it as a gift of grace; and he saw the suffering road that lay before him as another gift that he could give to us - one that would lead to eternal joy.
The key to being grateful in all things is to see all things as gifts of grace. God's blessings are abundant, even those gifts wrapped in heartache and pain. He uses them all to work out his plan for us. And each is truly grace - an undeserved gift from our heavenly Father.
I encourage you to take Thanksgiving Day and turn it into a life of thanksgiving. Instead of celebrating blessings only on Thanksgiving Day, celebrate every day giving thanks.
Pray that God will open the eyes of your heart to recognize even the smallest things to be grateful for. Begin to count them, write them down, and you'll soon see that the list of grace-gifts is never-ending! As we name blessings, we begin to practice the art of thanksgiving, learning to live with a grateful heart.
Pray also that God will open your hands to receive all of his gifts, even those wrapped in struggles, for they all are gifts of love from the One who loves you.
All is grace.
When you begin to look at life this way, your attitude changes. The greater your gratitude, the greater the joy you will experience as you see just how much He loves you.
Grace. Gratitude. Joy.
This is how to live a thank-filled life.
"Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." - Ephesians 5:19-20
90. CSI by Christine Wentzel
I am not a big fan of crime scene investigation (CSI) TV shows. Well, except for the one starring Mark Harmon...but I am sinfully digressing into fantasy. Lord, please forgive me! Anyway, I get much too queasy watching autopsies, even fake ones. So "high five" to the strong-stomachs of forensic specialists who help solve crime using their scientific sleuthing skills!
When I look back at the road I've traveled I'm tempted to see nothing but destruction littering the path. Sometimes the scene freezes me dead in my sins at the terminal messes I've left behind. Corpses of neglected, abused or rejected gifts of a generous, heavenly Provider are scattered everywhere. It's enough for my righteous Supervisory Special Agent to order a CSI investigation and pronounce me guilty, sentenced to die.
"There, but for the grace of God, goes John Bradford." Take out "John Bradford" and replace it with "I" and you have an updated version of the now familiar quote by this Christian martyr of mid 1550's England. While incarcerated in the Tower of London for his reformed faith he spoke these words as he watched prisoners go to their execution.
His words show no despair over his earthly sojourn. He believed his Lord and Savior personally picked up his sin-filled litter from the past, present and future and hefted the vile bag onto His own clean shoulders as He willingly allowed Himself to die on a cross of execution in his (and our) place. Christ did this so the Almighty Ruler of all Creation can perform His own CSI on John (and us) and judge him (and us) "not guilty!"
When we look back at the road we've traveled or the road before us let's look through our new Spirit-powered eyes. See what God sees-a clean path with only one thing hovering above it, a shining, empty cross reflecting its redemptive rays all the way back to its inception and all the way forward to its ending.
The Lamb of God removed the need for a CSI. If Christ resurrected from the dead and we are made alive in Him then there is no longer a body dead from sin to investigate. Thank you, Jesus!
At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. Titus 3:3-7
91. A Narrative in Jeopardy by Christine Wentzel
Recent headlines once again bring to the forefront the issue of whether a Christian should have the right to refuse service to the gay community. The purpose of this devotion is to zero in at the very moment they are asked to do something that appears to go against their beliefs. Their general refusal sounds something like this, "No I can't serve a gay couple because of my religion."
Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 1 Corinthians 6:9-10
Their limited answer always breaks my heart for it shuts the door on any further dialogue. Even worse, it misrepresents the compassionate sovereignty of our God. Did you notice the first sentence in the inspired quote from the Apostle Paul? "Wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God." That's all of us and reading through the rest of the passages I can relate to many more of those sinners specifically listed.
If we base our decisions on God's law only then how can we draw the red line on one sin, but not on others? If a heterosexual couple came in to have their party catered, do Christians ask if they are living together? Raising a family without the "I do" part first? Have they been divorced? Can you imagine being asked any of this before you make a purchase?
Now let's keep reading the rest of Paul's message, "And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. 1 Corinthians 6:11 How can we not answer with the complete message of redemption when a person's life depends on it?
Ponder for a moment this hypothetical conversation. Two words reveal a sin. Without them, we don't know anything is amiss.
Customer: We'd like to order a wedding cake.
Vendor: Okay, what would you like?
Customer: We like this style and want a wedding topper depicting two men.
Vendor: If this is for a gay wedding, I must let you know that I am a Christian. I believe that homosexuality is a sin. However because Jesus Christ came to serve all people and have them come to believe He redeemed their sins. Being one of the sinners He saved, I will serve everyone as well. (1Timothy 2:1-7)
I imagine it's at this point where the customers might leave insulted or they will be pleasantly surprised by the honest Truth and may want more down the line. It's up to the Holy Spirit which way it will go. Either way, the vendor helped plant a seed, and turn the false narrative of Christians hate gays back to the Truth that Christians are redeemed sinners who love sinners, but hate sin.
"...just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." Matthew 20:28
92. Greater Love Has No One Than This by Karen Spiegelberg
This Memorial Day weekend in the United States, grills will be stoked up for family cookouts, candy will be thrown at parades, and lakes will be crowded with boats full of eager water skiers or fishermen but most importantly, American flags will fly highly in honor and memory of those brave men and women soldiers who laid down their lives for their country. Because of their sacrifice, we enjoy countless freedoms and blessings. For this, we are truly thankful and in awe of the selflessness of their actions.
This freedom was purchased for us at a high price, the price of their lives. Hmmm… does someone else come to mind here? Because of the sacrifice of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, we experience freedom from sin and death and the power of the devil and we are assured of eternal life, the ultimate freedom, through his promises.
On this Memorial Day weekend, as we are reminded of those who have sacrificed for our freedom, let us not take our freedom, both physical and spiritual, for granted. May we always remember that our freedom was purchased at a very high price and that it cost many others their very lives.
“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13
PRAYER: Dear Lord, today my heart and soul are free to praise and worship you as I desire and for this I am thankful. On this Memorial Day weekend, bless those who have served and continue to serve with their lives for my freedom, following the example of your son. But Lord, there is no greater feeling than to experience the freedom from sin and death that you have provided for me through your son, Jesus Christ. Because of the great love you have shown, the ultimate sacrifice given, help me to live a life that glorifies you. Give me the strength to be a blessing in others’ lives and grant me the opportunity to lead others to the freedom that can only be found in knowing you. Amen.
93. 4th of July by Karen Maio
"The fourth of July is my favorite holiday!" a friend once told me.
Fourth festivities flitted through my mind - parades, picnics, parties; family, friends, food, fireworks. I wondered which of these made it so special for her, so I asked, "How come?"
"I don't have to buy any presents!" she replied.
We chuckled and agreed that was indeed an added benefit of this day of celebration; that, plus the fact that most Americans get a day or two off from work!
We wondered how many people actually paused in their festivities to remember the reason for the celebration. America became a free country on July 4, 1776, establishing rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and leading to freedoms encompassing areas of justice, speech, (and near and dear to our hearts) worship, to name a few. Many gave their lives in pursuit of this independence. We also wondered how many people know - or forgot - that America was established as a nation under God, founded on Christian principles. There are days where our country seems so far removed from this. Pick up your newspaper or hop online; read the headlines; there is so much sinful behavior in our world today!
America needs one more freedom - the freedom we have in Christ Jesus. God loves us despite of ourselves and in his compassion, gave his son to die for us to give us freedom from sin, the devil's power, and hell. "Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death." (Romans 8:1-2) We need to share this message of freedom with everyone!
God is still in control. Today, and every day, we can thank him for all the blessings that he has poured out on us and our country. We can celebrate our country's independence and praise him for our freedom in Jesus!
So, pack the coolers, the chairs, the blankets, and enjoy the fireworks, but take a moment to appreciate God's love and forgiveness and may God continue to bless America!
Dear God, we thank you for your gifts of freedom, both physical and spiritual - there is no greater freedom than that which we have through Jesus's sacrifice on the cross. May we never take them for granted. Help us to share that spiritual freedom with others. In Jesus's name, Amen.
94. Stand in the Light by Carolyn Webb
Have you ever noticed how much difference light can make on how things appear? Sitting in church one morning, I noticed the sunlight reflecting on a warped board in the plank ceiling, but when the sunlight shifted the problem area was no longer visible. Light makes all the difference in how things look. The book of John makes many references to Jesus as light. Jesus himself says in John 8:12 (KJV), "I am the light of the world, he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." Jesus' light shines on us and shows us where we need to be repaired. Without that light, everything looks just fine and we continue to live as if nothing is wrong. On our own we see no need for repair, but Jesus light shows us that we are far from perfect. The amazing thing is that when God looks at us through that same Light he doesn't see those imperfections. He sees us as "holy and without blemish and blameless." (Colossians 1:22 KJV)h "For God did not send his Son to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through him." (John 3:17 KJV) Don't shy away from the Light for fear of the imperfections you will see. Stand in the Light and enjoy the healing power of God's grace and forgiveness.
95. What a Friend We have in Jesus! by Leigh
What was Jesus thinking as He rode into Jerusalem on the morning of what would later become known as Palm Sunday? Jesus might have been wondering: "What are they thinking? I haven't come as their appointed earthly king to release them from the throws of an oppressive government. I'm going to die here! I'm going to have to die alone, so that they and everyone who came before, and who will come after them can live forever in the freedom of eternity." Here Jesus sits, on the back of a lowly donkey, a stubborn, resistant pack animal. Yet, as the Son of God parades through the palm-laden streets of The Great City, He willingly, humbly travels through the grips of a Lion's Den meant for us - His Friends.
Except for the fact that Jesus was facing death, this might have been His Last Hurrah, a well-deserved gala we'd compare to a modern-day New York City Ticker-Tape Parade. What would you be thinking, His Friend? As the Guest of Honor, you're being welcomed and praised as the crowd shouts your name to the heavens. As you pass by, the King over heaven and earth needing no earthly accolades, you know that in a few days you're going to die - because of them and for them. Could you be like Jesus or the countless Christian Martyrs, who in the centuries after would follow His lead? Could you silently and bravely be one of those twenty-one Egyptian Christians who were so brutally beheaded by fanatical terrorists in the Fifteenth year of the Twenty-First Century?
Jesus is traveling among His disciples, His inner circle of confidants - His Peeps. On that first day of Holy Week, Jesus and the Devoted Dozen are surrounded with well-wishing strangers, who receive them into the hub of the Jewish faith, the home of Solomon's Temple - Jerusalem. Soon, however, they'll see the cheers of hospitality turn to jeers of hostility. The crowds will call for Jesus death before the week is out. And, like so many other people of their day, The Twelve just don't quite get it! They are truly clueless about Jesus' real purpose in life. They somehow think Jesus is going to save the world and them from a heartless and depraved tyrannical regime. It's reasonable to believe that Jesus' Disciples were truly baffled and confused on that Sunday; because He hadn't yet shared every detail of the Big Picture with them. Jesus won't lay out for these twelve men the inevitable reality of His tragic end until Maundy Thursday, when His Beloved will be consoled and fortified for their own impending battles by the first Lord's Supper. As history tells us, all of them would suffer unspeakable cruelties and most would die the death of martyrs for Their Friend - JESUS!
In The Bible, we read that Jesus was not alone on His journey, yet lonely and longing for the suffering to end, for the work He was sent to do to be accomplished. If living in today's society, Jesus might have a heap of Facebook Friends; but, just like you and me, He would be very isolated even among the Internet crowds. Nobody is going to step up and "Like" the tough-row-He's-got-to-hoe, alone. There are no long-distance Tweets on His inter-galactic phone to notify Him that "He's got a friend in me." And, just like us, He'll wait patiently with great anticipation for a post or tweet that never comes - the Electronic Cloud is deathly still - sheer silence! No one other than Jesus could truly understand the profound depths and despicable pangs of total separation, isolation and desertion He was forced to endure for His friends.
What was Jesus thinking? As The Alpha and Omega, He understood His mission well and exactly what must happen for His Father's Will to be completed, perfectly done. He knew the level of the inexplicable pain He would soon go through. Still, He stayed atop the animal. Yes, like a lamb going to its slaughter, speechless and obedient even to death, Jesus knowingly, bravely moved ahead with the plan as He road the streets of Jerusalem on that eventful day. However, He's conflicted within. His human side knows the temporal body will die; but, the godhead within Him sees an eternal victory for His friends. If Jesus' ride into The Holy City were happening today, Twitter Feeds would crash the entire Internet; and the YouTube video posts, depicting the horrific violence inflicted on Him during Holy Week, would go viral! Is it possible that today's generation could be as despicable, blood-thirsty and ruthless as the crowds who welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem on that Sunday morning over two thousand years ago? Probably, Possibly, Perhaps!
What are your thoughts as you enter your personal Roman Coliseum, where the roar of a relieved, hopeful crowd soon turns into the rage of a ferocious audience, routing anxiously for your death? In short order, Jesus would be met by the hostile gladiators of His time, seeking absolute victory, the Thumbs Up of an earthly king and Jesus' abhorrent death. Being God, however, Jesus knew better than all of His conniving opponents the real, yet inevitable outcome: When the brutal battle of all battles is fought between good and evil, Jesus would willingly die to become our Vicarious Victor, the only substitute who could pay the full price, the demanded ransom for the souls of all humanity. That was Jesus' true mission. That's what He knew! That's probably what was uppermost in His mind. My life for my friends!
How about you, His Friend? Are you the best you can be for your pals? Do you do your best for your buddies? What extremes are you willing to endure for your friends? How about a complete stranger? Would you stick your neck out to become involved? Maybe! Maybe not! Perhaps you'll pass by the spiritually beaten and wounded strewn along the technologically remote roadside of our age, avoiding any involvement, any self-deprivation and any emotional cost, as remote as they may be. Perhaps! Perhaps not!
Is it possible, however, that being human like us, that deep within His subconscious Jesus might have been thinking: "Hey, could I get somebody else to do this for me? I'll just pass this nasty job, that's beneath me anyway, to some low-life sluggard. I bet nobody would even notice or care if that guy gets what he deserves, if he gets beaten up a few times and if he gets disowned by his own father when he's totally defeated, desolate and devastated. So what, if Pontius Pilot appears with his hand-washing routine, Not-in-My-Backyard attitude about the whole messy business he just wants to go away!" Probably not! It's not Christ-like! As Holy Week progresses, we'll be able to see that and what Jesus was truly thinking by His actions. By weeks end, we'll witness Jesus' elusive thought processes through His extraordinary feats.
As we've learned from Scripture, Jesus' human side would try in the Garden of Gethsemane to convince His Father to drop the humongous bail set for humanity's freedom; or, for His Dad to at least pass that bitter cup of suffering from Jesus' lips. Despite His impassioned pleas, deep within Jesus knew that The Father's answer to His prayer would be a resounding, "No! You must give your life on a cross to save the life of all my beloved children, your brothers and sisters, your friends." Wow! At the point Jesus needs His Father most, His Dad totally turns away from His Only Son. In that final excruciating moment on the cross, Jesus would be forced to spend it in sheer isolation. Only Jesus, who endured such unspeakable atrocities with such unfathomable human compassion, courage and strength, would do the one thing He knew was the impossible, improbable human solution:
Give His life for us - His Friends - so that we might live!
What was Jesus thinking from the depths of His soul as the crunch of the crisp palm branches snapped beneath the weight of the donkey and its precious cargo? He could get out of this, after all He's God! Right! However, just as He knew He was part of the Holy Trinity, He also understood He was our totally human substitute. His body had to die, to accomplish this one special mission - going it alone! Even as the crush of the falling timbers were cut for His cross by the merciless woodsman; just as His bones were broken to hasten His death by an indifferent government; just as His side was pierced by a sword-wielding soldier's distain; Jesus had to win this battle one His own - single-handedly! Do you think, like me, that He couldn't help but wonder, "Why me, Father? Where are you My Lord? Why have you deserted me when I need you most? Is there some other way we can get this done?"
As mere humans, we can't know what Jesus was thinking; however, we do get a glimpse of Jesus' thought processes through what He accomplished for us. Recounted throughout the sands of time, Jesus loving actions scream mega-decibels above what mere words can convey. By what He did, we can see how very much He has loved and known us from the beginning of His Time; so much so that He was willing to hand over His very life for a friend - the entire human race. Jesus knew that a brutal, painful and lonely end was His mission; that it would be over relatively quickly; and in the end, He would be the Glorious Victor - Our Risen Substitute.
Why! WHY? What the heck was Jesus thinking? While humanity may never know or understand His thoughts on that day, in that week, during His lifetime; one day we may know when we meet Our Savior face-to-face and if He thinks it's important for us to know. Still, when you see Jesus in action, you can conclude that He may have been telling Himself, "I've got to do this myself. No one else can do the job that's been delegated to me. I know what's coming and I don't want to have to go through it, especially alone. But, they're my friends; and if I don't do this, they'll die forever! Eternity is a long time to spend without friends. Besides, I've got to respect my Father's wishes and do as He promised humanity in The Garden of Eden."
Now, all that being said, if someone asked me, as one of Jesus' very Lucky Friends, what He was probably thinking as He rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday astride a lowly donkey, it might go something like this: "My Father's Will be done, AMEN!
The life of another is so much more valuable than my own human existence. And, I truly know humanity can't accomplish what they've prayed for - Eternal Life - alone, without my perfect, vicarious sacrifice. My Friends, I love you with all of my heart - beyond spoken and technological words! I'll never make you go it alone! I promise to always be by your side when times get tough. I'll help make everything turn out good for My Friends. I will give without any expectation. So, I freely, willingly and lovingly give my life that you might live forever in joy, peace and comforted, without conflict, care or concern."
Greater love hath no man than this: That he lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13)
96. For Lent, I’m Giving up...Giving Up Something by Karen Maio
Last Friday I went out to lunch with a couple people I used to work with. We placed our orders, then began catching up on each other’s’ lives. Our food arrived, and as they reached for their fish sandwiches and salads, I could see them eyeing up my burger and ice cream.
“Oh, that smells so good,” my co-worker Barb said, staring at my cheeseburger.
“I love turtle sundaes,” moaned the other woman, Sue.
“Well, why didn’t you get one?” I asked them both.
“Lent,” they replied in unison.
“I can’t eat meat on Friday,” Barb continued.
“Why not?” I inquired.
“I don’t know. We just aren’t supposed to eat meat on Fridays during Lent,” Barb said.
“I gave up chocolate for Lent,” Sue said.
“Ooh, chocolate? How come?” I asked.
“We’re supposed to give up something we enjoy, you know, sacrifice something, like Jesus did,” Sue explained.
“Bummer!” I exclaimed as I bit into my juicy burger and washed it down with my turtle sundae.
This little scenario didn’t really happen to me, but it is happening all around me. It’s that wonderful, awful time of year: Lent. People are fasting or giving up favorite foods and beverages, and for what? Some people feel it’s religiously required. Others haven’t got a clue why they are doing it.
Fasting has been around since Old Testament times as part of ceremonial laws. It was required on only one day of the year though, the Great Day of Atonement. Any other fasting people participated in was done because they chose to.
We, as Christians in New Testament times, are free from those ceremonial laws; we do not have to fast. There’s nothing wrong with fasting; Jesus fasted. We may choose to fast as part of our personal worship, for example, fasting in preparation of Holy Communion. While it may be a way to focus with self-discipline and self-denial, it does not earn us any points with God. It’s nothing without faith in God’s Word. The Bible clearly teaches we can do nothing to contribute to our salvation. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast- Ephesians 2:8-9
Likewise, nowhere in Scripture does it say we have to give up something for Lent. We may choose to sacrifice something we enjoy but the danger in these practices lies in your focus. If your focus is on “I” - look what I am doing… you are treading on the fine line of good works. Rather than focusing on what you can do, put your focus on its rightful place - on Jesus and the cross. Look what he has done for you - lived a perfect life in our place; died on the cross to redeem us, defeated Satan and the power of sin and death. Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ - 1 Corinthians 15:57
Look to the cross. Meditate on his Word. Believe in Jesus your Savior.
Enjoy that cheeseburger or turtle sundae!
97. God Whispers by Carolyn Webb
The phone is ringing, the radio is playing, the TV is blaring, the kids are playing loudly, the dog is barking, and the appliances are whirring. So much noise all around us that it's hard to hear ourselves think, much less hear God's voice. Where do you hear God speak? Is it only in church that you are able to hear God? God showed his prophet Elijah that He is not always in the powerful forces of nature, but in the quietness.
The LORD said, 'Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.' Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mount of the cave. (I Kings 19:11-13)
The almighty God is fully capable of showing his power, but that is not how he speaks to us. God doesn't shout at us to get our attention. He whispers to us in his Word. I recall a Kindergarten teacher who never raised her voice. She spoke almost in a whisper so the children had to be quiet to hear her speak. God wants us to be quiet, so we can hear him speak too. When Jesus needed alone time with His father, he "withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place" (Matthew 14:13) or "went up on a mountainside by himself to pray." (Matthew 14:23) You might not have the luxury of getting away from it all. Perhaps your only solitude is a 5 minute shower. There are times in our lives when this is reality. Take whatever quiet time you can get, turn off all the electronics, and turn your thoughts to God. He's waiting to whisper to you.
98. Poisoned Perception by Christine Wentzel
I recently heard the term "poisoned perception" while watching a movie. As soon as it reached my brain, a thought lit up like a blue light special at a discount store.
Everyone is drawn to a juicy story. It's probably what attracts us to the drama in reality TV. While we listen to the latest gossip about someone, especially one we don't even know, we begin to develop a negative perception about that person. By the end of the tale our opinion is so poisoned we are ready to cast an unjust verdict on one clueless innocent. Thinking it through, it's really quite a stupid waste of time, but since when did the devil need common sense to stir the pot?
Let's look back at that group of gossips then pan out past what we can see. Pull back the curtain of this world to see what lies just beyond the veil of perception. The story in 2 Kings 6:8-23 reveals in no uncertain terms just what is happening right now... "And Elisha prayed, "Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see." Then the Lord opened the servant's eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha." (vs17)
It's so easy to forget what is really going on beyond our senses. The following verses should shake us awake. Satan is on the march and he knows the choicest fields to fight. Those ripe grounds are where we work, play and worship. We, who call on Jesus' name above all names, are his prime targets.
"Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. Luke 22:31
The LORD said to Satan, "Very well, then, everything he has is in your power, but on the man himself do not lay a finger." Job 1:12
During this season of celebration, we are more prone to get lax while feasting and let old habits resurface. Let's stay alert! Like the disciples, Job and the rest of our heavenly family, we have the Champion of Truth on our side. He prays for us, He and His angels fight for us. We will not be consumed so let's help by staying on a diet of wholesome talk to starve out the one who is lurking around to poison it. Our examples just may have a profound ripple effect on others around us.
But I have prayed for you, Simon that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers." Luke 22:32
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Ephesians 4:29
99. New Year, New Start by Carolyn Webb
Do you make New Year's resolutions? I am one of the millions of Americans who make a resolution at the beginning of the year to change something about their life. Typically my resolutions don't look much different from the average American and fall within the top five resolutions for 2012:
1. Lose Weight
2. Get Organized
3. Spend Less, Save More
4. Enjoy Life to the Fullest
5. Stay Fit and Healthy
This year my resolution didn't make it into the top ten list for Americans. I want to adjust my attitude. In reflecting on the past year, I have found myself fostering a negative attitude about many things. While New Year's resolutions don't have a Biblical origin, there are Bible passages that are applicable to making a new start. To guide my attitude adjustment I selected a few Bible passages to guide me through the year.
1. Don't hold a grudge; God doesn't. Each day is a chance to start over.
Lamentations 3:22-23 - Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
2. Don't let the past get in the way of the future.
Philippians 3:13b-14 - But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
3. Be thankful for God's Blessings
Psalm 118:1 - Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever.
Whether you make resolutions or not, may God bless your new year and give you a peaceful, thankful heart.
100. Mary by Karen Maio
At Christmastime, with our focus on the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ, one can't help but think about his mother, Mary. What do we know about Mary?
From the inspired words of the Gospel writer, Luke, we know that she was Jewish, from the town of Nazareth in Galilee; she was still a virgin; and that she was engaged to a man named Joseph.
(OK...an ordinary girl, at least in those days. We can assume that she was young, possibly around 13, the age young ladies became engaged then. She was most likely poor, despite being from a royal line (David), she was from a lowly town (The joke was "Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?"(John 1:46)), and she and her husband were able to afford only two doves or pigeons instead of the usual bird and lamb for the sacrifice at Mary's purification ceremony at the temple (Luke 2:24). However, Luke continues.)
She was visited by an angel, declared "highly favored by God", and would be impregnated by the Holy Spirit.
(OK... "Ordinary" just flew out the window! Although slightly more common than today, an angelic visit back then was certainly a very rare occurrence! She had every reason to be terrified! And why on earth would the Almighty God favor this particular insignificant Jewish girl to be the mother of the Savior of the world? We may never know, but God knew his daughter's level of trust, strength, and obedience and bestowed his grace upon her. And pregnant? By the Holy Spirit?! How would that work? Luke goes on about Mary.)
Mary was a woman of faith. "I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered. "May your word to me be fulfilled." (Luke 1:38)
(OK...in those days, pregnancy before the wedding was unheard of. Not only would it cause her to face harsh ridicule, it would disgrace Joseph and their two families, most likely cause the wedding to be called off, leaving her "tainted" goods no man would ever want, and possibly cost Mary her life since the penalty for an (apparent) adultery was stoning. Yet, she said, "OK". Wow...would we have?)
It's interesting to contemplate Mary, but when you get right down to it, she really doesn't matter all that much. The Christmas star attraction is Jesus and his birth. So, what should our attitude be toward her? Mary will always be honored for being blessed to be the Savior's mother, but she was an ordinary sinful human needing a Savior herself. We can thank God for what he has done for us and our salvation through her. We can look at Mary as a fine example of simple trust and obedience, following God in faith wherever he leads. Let's praise the Lord!
"My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me - holy is his name. His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, just as he promised our ancestors." (Luke 1:46-55)