Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy Tuesday - New Year's Eve Day

Good Morning Readers,
       The last day of 2013 and for today's Devotionals,
I have selected one from just before this Christmas Season and the latter from Christmas past 2009... 
     If you have not read the January '14 Edition of The StarLight News, it is posted at http://the-starlight-news.blogspot.com/...
Happy Reading,
Thought for Today

Jesus is the Light of the World!

The Yard Light
(By Peder Eide, www.pedereide.com)
 I love light!
 I mean, if we had no light, we couldn't see things.
 We couldn't see each other. We couldn't see where we are going and would step on really sharp toys that weren't put away! We would not know how to stay on the highway at night. We would struggle to get a tan. We would be colder. We wouldn't wear matching clothes.
 To walk around in the dark all the time? Awful.
 We would miss so much beauty. There is actually a form of depression some people suffer from when they are living long periods of life without sunlight. The list is infinite about how hard life would be without light.
 You get the picture. Light is pretty important.
 As we enter into this Advent season before Christmas 2013, I want to spend time looking at the message, power of, need, and reason for light. Specifically the Light of World that comes to us in Jesus Christ.
 I remember on the farm we had a single yard light that was right in the center of our homestead. It was probably a 75 watt light bulb at the top of a telephone pole that was turned on and off in the house. It was there for the purpose of helping you see where you were going from building to building at night.
 Walking from the steel shed or the barn or chicken coop on a dark Minnesota night back to the house could be nerve-racking for a seven-year-old who thought Scooby Doo haunted mysteries could be real.
 The yard light, though, was a lifesaver. If I needed to flee from any monsters lurking in the nearby woods, I could run freely without worrying about tripping over a bike, running into a clothes line, or falling in a trap set by an enemy trying to take over the world (starting at my farm! - Yes, I had an imagination...).
 As long as that yard light was on, no worries.
 But I'd lose confidence when I was closing up the barn door for the night, and my older brother - let's call him Tom - was watching out the window to turn off the yard light. He'd force me to walk in the night without a light.
 It changed how I walked, hoping I wouldn't bang my shin on something. The wind, the creaking of branches, gates swinging, and squirrels running were all way more evil than ever before.
 My breathing would speed up, my senses on alert, and I'd move towards the house in total fear but with one single goal: don't die before giving paybacks to the brother we're calling Tom.
 We need light. Not just physically, but spiritually. God the Father knew it. It was why He sent His Son to a darkening world. We are meant to live this life in the light not in the dark.
 Do you feel any of those emotions in your day-to-day life that I was feeling when my brother turned off the yard light? If anything at all, then that's why this Advent is important for you.
 Wouldn't it be great if this Christmas you discovered the light of Jesus in a new way so you don't ever have to fear the dark?
 The best part about the light of Jesus? There is no one who can ever turn it off with a switch. It is always on.
 Let's get ready to run in the light this Christmas, my friends, because darkness cannot overcome the Light!
One Long Extended Gift
by Charles R. Swindoll (Christmas, 2009)
It's not too late to give some things away this Christmas. Not just on Christmas Day, but during the days after December 25. We could call these daily gifts "our Christmas projects." Maybe one per day from now 'til the end of the year. Here are thirty-two suggestions. Take your choice. 

• Mend a quarrel.
• Seek out a forgotten friend.
• Dismiss suspicion.
• Write a long-overdue love note.
• Hug someone tightly and whisper, "I love you so."
• Forgive an enemy.
• Be gentle and patient with an angry person.
• Express appreciation.
• Gladden the heart of a child.
• Find the time to keep a promise.
• Make or bake something for someone else. Anonymously.
• Release a grudge.
• Listen.
• Speak kindly to a stranger.
• Enter into another's sorrow.
• Smile. Laugh a little. Laugh a little more.
• Take a walk with a friend.
• Kneel down and pat a dog.
• Read a poem or two to your mate or friend.
• Lessen your demands on others.
• Play some beautiful music during supper.
• Apologize if you were wrong.
• Talk together with the television off.
• Treat someone to an ice-cream cone.
• Do the dishes for the family.
• Pray for someone who helped you when you hurt.
• Fix breakfast for someone on Saturday morning.
• Give a soft answer even though you feel strong.
• Encourage an older person.
• Point out one thing you appreciate most about someone you work with or live near.
• Offer to baby-sit for a weary mother.
• Give your teacher a break---be especially cooperative.

Let's make Christmas one long, extended gift of ourselves to others. Unselfishly. Without announcement. Or obligation. Or reservation. Or hypocrisy.
That is Christianity, isn't it? 

Monday, December 30, 2013

Happy Monday

Thought for Today
"The immense step from the Babe at Bethlehem to the living, reigning triumphant Lord Jesus, returning to earth for his own people--that is the glorious truth proclaimed throughout Scripture. As the bells ring out the joys of Christmas, may we also be alert for the final trumpet that will announce his return, when we shall always be with him."
- Alan Redpath

 Thinking of Christmas
(by Eric McGrath)

When you think of Christmas, do you think of:

1) Eternity -
"Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God" - Philippians 2:5,6
This was not a last minute idea that God had while rocking in His chair. No, God had His mind on us from eternity past and us on His mind. And as Romans reminds us, while we were His enemies, while we were separated from Him, and while we were without strength, God came to us and showed us His great love. Someone has written a song in recent years that says something to the effect that while He was on the cross, we were on His mind. But the truth of the matter is that before there was a cross, yes, even before there was an earth, we were on His mind.

When you think of Christmas, do you think of:

2) Emmanuel (God with us) -
"But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men" - Philippians 2:7
Think of it - God Himself put on the soiled robes of humanity and came to our world so that one day we could go to His! Emmanuel = "God with us". The title applied to the Messiah, born of the virgin, (Matthew 1:23, Isaiah 7:14) because Jesus was God united with man, and showed that God was dwelling with man.

That story of the judge and newspaper editor who didn't get along too well applies here. One day, the judge's best friend appeared before him in court. The editor thought this was his golden opportunity to discredit the judge. He thought, "If he is too soft on his friend, my headline will read 'Who needs a judge that is soft on his friends'?" The editor thought as well that if he was too hard on his friend, the headline would read: 'Who needs a judge that shows no sympathy to even his friends'?"

The trial progressed - the verdict was in. The judge found his friend guilty and then levied the harshest punishment he could under the law. The editor was up and off to his office to begin writing his story.

But what he failed to observe was that the judge, after pronouncing sentence, stood, took off his regal robes and came around the front of the bench and paid the fine for his friend.

This is Christmas! This is God taking off His royal robes and coming down in front of the bench which has declared that "the wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23) and He has paid the penalty imposed on our sin.

When you think of Christmas, do you think of:

3) Easter - "And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross." - Philippians 2:8

Without an Easter, the Christmas story would be just a nice warm fuzzy. But Easter brings purpose, fulfillment and finality to the nativity story. Easter reminds us that the little babe in the manger grew into manhood and took on the establishment and society of His day. Easter reminds us that in the midst of misunderstanding and persecution and even temptation, nothing could influence Christ away from the purpose for which He had come. Easter reminds us too, that He fulfilled His divine purpose and mission, which was His from eternity past - to carry the sins of mankind to the cross. Easter reminds us that in His death, there was finality in the age long war against sin. His cry of "It is finished!" from the cross, declares "task complete" - "mission accomplished". But most importantly Easter reminds us that God the Father accepted on our behalf His only begotten Son as our Redeemer. The resurrection is the proof of this acceptance. And
"because I live, you will live also" (John 14:19)
When you think of Christmas, do you think of:

4) Exaltation - "Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." - Philippians 2:9-11

This reminds us of the choice that we have now, and also that it will not be a choice forever. The choice we have now is to worship Christ as Saviour and Lord freely and willingly. To make a conscious choice to repent and receive Him as our Redeemer, and then to join in the exaltation, praising Him for all He has done for us. How precious are these times of rejoicing as we exalt the name of Jesus!

But that choice will not always be ours to make. As the verses above remind us, the time is coming when every knee in every sphere will bow and worship the Christ, this babe who came in a manger, but then Who will be coming as a righteous King! As Warren Wiersbe writes in his commentary on Philippians, entitled "Be Joyful", 'One day all will bow before Him and confess that He is Lord. Of course, it is possible for people to bow and confess today, and receive His gift of salvation (Rom. 10:9-10). To bow before Him now means salvation; to bow before Him at the judgment means condemnation.'

The choice is yours! But the result of your choice has already been settled because of the Babe who came at Christmas. So the only choice is will you bow now or bow later?
 So as you think of Christmas this year, might I invite you to get beyond simply looking at the cradle? Move to Calvary! Then to the grave! Then to glory! Join in on the exaltation!
Eternity -> Emmanuel -> Easter -> Exaltation.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Happy Sunday

Thought for Today

"The Almighty appeared on earth as a helpless human baby, needing to be fed and changed and taught to talk like any other child. The more you think about it, the more staggering it gets. Nothing in fiction is so fantastic as this truth of the Incarnation." - J.I. Packer

Not Exactly What They Had Expected
(By Jan @ CF Devotionals and Chris Long)

Luke 2:11-12 (NKJV) "For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger."

This Christmas, most of us will be giving and receiving many presents. Some may be just what we were hoping for, but some children and adults will undoubtedly be disappointed. Some will be surprised. Some surprises will be happy ones; people will receive that "perfect gift," even more meaningful than they had hoped. God Himself used unexpected people, places and events in the Nativity. God turned things upside down when He sent His Son into the world as our Savior.

The Jewish people were expecting a powerful political conqueror. God sent them a helpless Baby.

They likely expected the announcements of His entry in the world, to go first to "important" people, "VIP's." But God's angels announced Christ's birth to shepherds, who were on the lower rungs of society.

They expected a Messiah who would only give THEM gifts -- prosperity, victories over their military enemies. Instead, God sent a Messiah who expects us to give Him our hearts, our very lives.

[They didn't realize] the Messiah would not favor many of the ones the world looks to as heros; in fact, He would bless the humble and the poor.

They expected worldly peace; God sent them a Prince of Peace, but the guaranteed peace was spiritual.

Jesus was not the Messiah / King / Savior they had hoped for. But He was more than they could have hoped for. His gifts last for eternity. No returns. No disappointments from Him. He will never let us down. Do you know Him as your personal Savior? Have you accepted salvation from Him, that best gift we will ever receive? If not, there's no better time then today. Simply acknowledge your sinfulness before Him and believe in your heart that He came to this earth to live a sinless life and pay the penalty on the cross for your sin. He was born that we might live - forever in eternity with Him.

Oh, and by the way, while Jesus' first coming was as a babe in the manger, Jesus is coming back a second time. And that will be in Righteous Power - as the Lion of the Tribe of Judah - and He WILL bring that physical peace to the earth where the lion shall lay down with the lamb - and all nations and peoples will bow before Him.

May you have a blessed Christmas season, remembering all that God has done. Don't let all the commotion and clanging of all the busyness of the season keep you from standing in AWE of the Savior who was born in a lowly manger for YOU.

God's plan of salvation is nothing less then wondrous. And simple. Won't you accept His gift to you today?

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Happy Saturday

Thought for Today

"God's eternal purpose fulfilled in a baby! Incredible as it sounds, that is the staggering import of Christmas. The total eternal program and purpose of almighty God was all wrapped up in an infant, born in a manger in Bethlehem twenty centuries ago. One of the facts about the Christian way that commends it to thoughtful men, is its universality. This is a big word to say that Christianity, rightly understood, is utterly unlike religion that man invents. It is so completely contrary to the way man does things, that it must have come from God. Take Christmas, for example; only God could have thought of that. When man invents a super being, he comes up with a Superman, or a Captain Marvel. God gives the world a baby. And in that baby is tied up the whole destiny of the world and mankind and history."
- Dr. Richard C. Halverson

The Empty Manger
(Author Unknown)

He arrived early on Christmas morning to give the church a thorough inspection, noting with approval that the aisles and seats had been swept and dusted after the midnight Christmas Eve service. Any lost purses, Bibles and gloves had been collected and sent to the office where the lost and found box was kept; every forgotten flyer and bulletin insert had been rounded up and discarded.

Outside it was just beginning to grow light. In the church, where only the pastor moved, candles flickered and threw shifting shadows on the arches and the stone floor. Occasionally, stray candlelight picked out the rich colors in the stained glass windows. It was cold and, except for the pastor's slow tread, it was silent.

He paused beside the almost life-sized nativity scene to say a Christmas prayer of thanksgiving to the One whose birth is celebrated. The figures, each lovingly crafted with wonderful realism, sat on a small stage. A night sky and the star that led the shepherds and the wise men to the Messiah on the day of His birth could be seen through the open door of the stable. The shepherds were just entering, eyes wide in obvious awe. Various kinds of livestock stood in stalls or lay on the edges of the scene. And in the center was the Holy Family. Looking at the manger scene, the pastor could almost feel the reverence of that long ago night.

Slowly, a puzzled frown crept across his brow. Then his choked gasp rustled through the empty church.

The manger was empty! The small figure representing the infant Savior was gone.

Hurriedly, and with growing agitation, the pastor began to search the church again. Starting by the manger, he peered back through the aisles, nearly crawling on his hands and knees to see all the way under each seat. But there was nothing. Next, he called the custodian, thinking he may have seen the figure of the infant Jesus. Then he called the assistant pastor, but no one had any explanation. In the end, each shaking his head sorrowfully, they accepted the truth they had all been trying to avoid: The figure could not have been mislaid or lost - it must have been stolen.

The pastor reported the theft to the congregation that assembled not long after. His voice trembled as he told them what he had found earlier that morning. For a person to steal the very symbol of their reason for celebrating, he said, their very reason for hope - well, he just did not understand. His gaze swept over the faces in the early morning congregation, disappointed to think someone in his own congregation might do such a thing.

The figure of the Christ Child must be returned before this Christmas Day is over. No one will ask any questions, but it must be brought back immediately. Then, he slipped from the pulpit and the choir closed the service with O Come, Let Us Adore Him.

The manger remained empty throughout the day.

Toward the end of the afternoon, discouraged and heavy-hearted, the pastor took a walk through the wintry streets of the neighborhood. Ahead of him he saw one of the youngest members of his flock, a 6 year old boy named Tommy. Bundled shabbily against the cold, Tommy trudged up the sidewalk, proudly dragging behind him a toy express wagon. It was bright red and obviously Christmas-new.

Knowing what sacrifice and scrimping the purchase of this toy must have meant - Tommy's family could barely make ends meet - the pastor was deeply touched. The love Tommy's parents had for their little boy gave the pastor's heart a gentle warmth and he felt his faith in human nature beginning to return. He sped up so he could wish Tommy a Merry Christmas and admire the new wagon.

But as he drew nearer he saw that the wagon was not empty - there lay the baby Jesus, now wrapped and blanketed, but not quite hidden.

The pastor crouched down beside Tommy, one knee feeling the damp snow through his pant leg. His face was grim and disappointed. Tommy may be just a little boy, and one must make allowances, of course, but he was still old enough to understand that stealing was very wrong. The pastor made this crystal clear to Tommy while the little boy stood, his seemingly guiltless clear eyes filling with what the pastor was sure were penitent tears.

"But Pastor," Tommy quavered when at last the man finished talking. "I didn't steal Jesus. It wasn't like that at all." He paused to swallow hard and wipe a few tears away. "It's just that I've been asking Him for a red wagon as a Christmas present for a long time - and I promised Him that when I got it I'd take Him out for the first ride."

Friday, December 27, 2013

Happy Friday

He Leads us to Safety
(Author Unknown)

One Christmas Eve, many years ago, Grandma and Grandpa were babysitting their grandchildren. One special event each Christmas Eve was to attend the services at the town church. This Christmas Eve, Grandpa would have nothing to do with the special services. He said to his wife, "You take the grandchildren to the services, I can't be bothered...I don't believe that this God could become a little baby..why would He want to become one of us?" And so the grandmother took the children off to the services, leaving Grandfather to stay home by himself.

While Grandfather read the newspaper alone in the living room, he heard a loud noise coming from the kitchen. He hurried to into the room to see what was making all the noise. To his surprise, he saw three little sparrows, each trying to fly into the house through the glass kitchen window.

"The poor little birds will die," he said, as the storm outside got worse. "What can I do to save these little ones?" he thought. "I know what I will do! I'll go outside and turn on the light in the back shed."

And so, he put on his boots, his coat and hat and went outside in the cold wind to turn on the light in the shed. But to his surprise the birds would not go into the barn. "What will I do now?" he said. "Ahh, I know! I'll get the bird seed and make a trail of seed to the barn so that the birds will eat their way to safety."

And so he spread the bird seed. But they would not go. He thought again. "What would get those birds into the barn? I know! I'll shoo them in! They will be afraid of me and I'll chase them into the barn." He tried to shoo them, but they fluttered about and still would not go into the barn.

In frustration he fell to the ground and pounded the snow with his fists and said, "If only I could become a little bird, one of them, I could lead them and show them the way to safety so that they would not die."

Just then, the bells sounded at the church in the town square, and at that moment, Grandfather understood why God would want to become one of us, in Jesus. He became one of us to lead us to safety.

Christmas in Heaven

I've had my first Christmas in Heaven
A Glorious, wonderful day.
I stood with the saints of the ages,
who found Christ the Truth and the Way.

I sang with the Heavenly Choir:
Just think: I who longed so to sing!
And oh, what celestial music
we brought to our Savior and King!

We sang the glad songs of redemption,
How Jesus to Bethlehem came,
And how they called His name Jesus,
That all might be saved through His name.

We sang once again with the angels,
The song that they sang that blest morn,
When shepherds first heard the glad story
That Jesus, the Savior, was born.

Oh, how I wish you had been there:
No Christmas on earth could compare
With all the rapture and glory
We witnessed in Heaven so fair.

You know how I always loved Christmas;
It seemed such a wonderful day,
With all of my loved ones around me
The children so happy and gay.

Yes, now I can see why I loved it:
And oh, what a joy it will be
When you and my loved ones are with me:
To share in the glories I see.

So dear ones on earth, here's my greeting:
Look up till the day dawn appears,
And oh, what a Christmas awaits us,
Beyond all our parting and tears.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Happy Thursday

Bringing Good News
(By Marybeth Whalen)

How lovely on the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, Who announces salvation, And says to Zion, "Your God reigns!" Isaiah 52:7 (NASB)

One thing I love about the Christmas story is the response of those who heard about Jesus' birth. Across the board, their response was the same - an immediate reaction to go out and tell everyone about Him. It began with the angels, gloriously exalting Him from the sky so that everyone could hear. The excitement spread to the shepherds, and on to the wise men. Each of them felt the urgency to share the good news of the birth of the long-awaited Savior. Not only did they hear, but they responded. Not only did they respond, they responded immediately. No grass grew under their beautiful feet!

I love that God included this part of the story for us. He did not limit the scene to the cozy stable and loving parents. He showed us how even those outside of the main action could have a part in Jesus' story. I think this was no accident. I think God wanted us to see how we too can respond to hearing the good news of Jesus' birth. But do we? Do we take the opportunities we have at Christmas to share the gospel - the good news?

This season is like no other as people come face to face with Jesus Christ. Just for this little window of time, the stores play songs that say His name, the decorations point to Him and many activities are focused on Him. How can we best use this window of opportunity to share Him so that this year we can inspire other people to take Him to heart? Here are just a few suggestions to use as a springboard in your own life...

Include scripture in your Christmas card or on your gift tags. Also, consider writing a letter that shares a story of how God was real to you this year, or how you experienced an answer to prayer. People love stories, and you never know how God will use this as a witness to those who receive your cards. But you have to be bold, step out of your comfort zone, and take the risk of your long distance relatives thinking you're weird!

Find ways to bless retail salespeople during the busy shopping season. I have a friend who gives coupons for a free sandwich at a local restaurant out to each person who waits on her. This is just a little way to share God's love with them, but it means a lot in the midst of the hectic, and sometimes rude, days before Christmas. These people take a lot of abuse and might just need a reminder that someone cares - and that God has not forgotten them.

There are many ways to adopt a family or child at Christmas. Compassion International is a terrific agency you can sponsor a needy child through, in the name of Christ. Don't limit yourself just to the community agencies, though. Think about anonymously giving to a family you know personally who is going through a hard time. Maybe they are facing a long-term illness or a job loss and you could be God's hands and feet for them. Consider organizing a group of friends to buy food and gifts to make their Christmas surprisingly special this year.

Of course there are many ways to express the love Jesus came to share. As you experience that love, you can pass it along to all you come in contact with. Look for ways to show love to others, as that love will speak volumes to those who are lost and hurting. When their hearts are first softened by love, then they will want to know more about this Jesus. Make this Christmas the time you respond as the angels, the shepherds and the Wise Men did - by being intentional and passionate about sharing the good news of a Messiah who came to save the world.

"Dear Lord, Please help me to share the good news of Jesus this year. Help me to act on the ideas You give to me and to not be inhibited by embarrassment, fear or self-consciousness. Help me to be bold for You, just as the angels and shepherds and Wise Men were. In Jesus' Name, Amen."

Mark 16:15, "And He said to them, Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation." (NASB)

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry CHRISTmas

Galatians 4:1-7
Last year a 94-year-old woman died in Rome and left her fortune to her four-year-old cat, a former stray. The woman didn't have children or heirs, and she became so attached to her cat that she left it an inheritance of $13 million.

That's a ridiculous story, but here's a similar story that's not ridiculous at all. There was once a man who left the wealth of the ages to His sheep. He said, "I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd" (John 10:10-11).

All our inheritance was released upon the death of Jesus Christ. Because He died, we have an abundant provision of everything we need. We are heirs of God and joint heirs of Christ, and He has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ according to the riches of His grace (Ephesians 1:3, 7).

Dr. David Jeremiah

A Christmas Prayer

For Those Who Have Suffered the Recent Death of a Loved One

God of compassion, there is such a hole in my heart! Today should be a day of joy, but I feel only emptiness and loss. While the world celebrates around me, I remember Christmas celebrations of the past, and I long to have my loved one with me. I bring my sorrows to you, Lord, like some odd gift of the magi - and dump them at your feet. In my blind tear's I wonder if anyone can possibly understand the depth of my sadness.

I know, you can. You sent your son to be with us in our deepest Sorrows, and I know that even though I might not feel it now, you are here with me, grieving with me, caring for me in my sadness.

Dearest lord, help me to turn to the one I miss so much today and speak. Help me heal the loss of our parting, and help me not to regret the things I didn't say. Sorrow tears at my heart, but today I ask that my loss soften my heart and make me more compassionate with everyone I meet, so that my loss may become a gift to others.


On Christmas afternoon, the Pastor's wife dropped into an easy chair saying, "Boy!  Am I ever tried." 

Her husband (the Pastor) looked over at her & said, "I had to conduct two special services last night, three today, & give a total of five sermons.  Why are you so tired?" 

"Dearest," she replied, "I had to listen to all of them." 

Merry CHRISTmas Everyone

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Happy Tuesday - Happy CHRISTmas Eve Day

He Sees You When You’re Sleeping

By Skip Heitzig

There’s a Christmas song that tells us how Santa Claus “sees you when you’re sleeping, he knows when you’re awake, he knows if you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake!” The writer of this song was wrongly giving an imaginary elf the attributes of God. You see, only God knows everything. This attribute is called omniscience, and it makes Him so different, so much higher, than mere humans.

The thing about God that really grabbed David’s attention was His personal and thorough knowledge of him. He said in Psalm 139, “O Lord, You have searched me and known me. You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off. You comprehend my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word on my tongue, but behold, O Lord, You know it altogether” (Ps. 139:1-4). Amazingly, the God who knows everything about everything cares enough to know each of us personally.

David reminds us that God knows us inside and out. He has searched and knows us, including our thoughts and our motives. He knows when we sit down to relax and when we get up to engage in the activities of our daily lives. He can even tell what we’re thinking and what we’ll say. Knowing that God knows about us should cause us to live lives that are pleasing to Him. In the words of the Christmas song, we should want to “be good for goodness’ sake!”

David also realized that God’s thoughts toward Him were both gracious and numerous: “How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand; When I awake, I am still with You” (Ps. 139:17). God’s thoughts toward us are precious; in other words, they are loving, concerned thoughts. And His thoughts toward us are continual; they are beyond counting. If the mythical Santa was said to be watching to see whether to give or withhold gifts, know this: God is watching because He wants to give “exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think” (Eph. 3:20).

The Creator of the Universe, the Almighty God, who knows each star by name, is thinking about you. He sees you when you’re sleeping, He knows when you’re awake…and He is there diligently, lovingly watching over you. “He who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, He…shall neither slumber nor sleep” (Psalm 121:3-4).

'Twas the night before Christmas
'Twas the night before Christmas & out on the ranch

The pond was froze over & so was the branch.

The snow was piled up belly-deep to a mule.

The kids were all home on vacation from school, 

And happier young folks you never did see-

Just all sprawled around a-watchin' TV.

Then suddenly, some time around 8 o'clock,

There came a surprise that gave them a shock! 

The power went off, the TV went dead!

When Grandpa came in from out in the shed

With an armload of wood, the house was all dark.

"Just what I expected," they heard him remark. 

"Them power line wires must be down from the snow.

Seems sorter like times on the ranch long ago."

"I'll hunt up some candles," said Mom. "With their light,

And the fireplace, I reckon we'll make out all right." 

The teen-agers all seemed enveloped in gloom.

Then Grandpa came back from a trip to his room,

Uncased his old fiddle & started to play

That old Christmas song about bells on a sleigh. 

Mom started to sing, & 1st thing they knew

Both Pop & the kids were all singing it, too.

They sang Christmas carols, they sang "Holy Night,"

Their eyes all a-shine in the ruddy firelight. 

They played some charades Mom recalled from her youth,

And Pop read a passage from God's Book of Truth.

They stayed up till midnight-and, would you believe,

The youngsters agreed 'twas a fine Christmas Eve. 

Grandpa rose early, some time before dawn;

And when the kids wakened, the power was on...

"The power company sure got the line repaired quick,"

Said Grandpa - & no one suspected his trick. 

Last night, for the sake of some old-fashioned fun,

He had pulled the main switch - the old Son-of-a-Gun!

O Holy Night

Monday, December 23, 2013

Happy Monday

by David Wilkerson 

A teenage girl confessed to me, “Sir, two years ago my mom and dad were killed in a car crash. They were the best parents a girl could ever have. I’ve wondered how God could allow them to be killed in such a violent way, and for the past two years I’ve held a grudge against Him. Doesn't God protect His own? I can’t pray anymore with real trust in Him, because I believe He failed me. What can I do? I guess you can say I’m mad at the Lord.”

A young couple I know has been harboring resentment against the Lord for nearly ten years. Their beautiful, five-year-old daughter died shortly after being stricken with a brain tumor and they grew bitter. They have stayed in church and go through all the motions, but they no longer believe in the effectiveness of prayer. They are afraid to disown God, afraid to call Him a liar or an unfaithful Father, but they have never forgiven Him for “taking away their only child.”

Almost every Christian at some time in his life has had to face the problem of unanswered prayer. A prayer goes unanswered for weeks and months—even years. An unexpected illness or tragedy claims a loved one. Things happen that have no rhyme or reason and then faith begins to falter. But the Word makes it very clear that a wavering person will never receive anything from God.

Jesus understood this tendency in His children to hold grudges against heaven when mountains are not moved on schedule. He warned Peter not to ask anything when standing in God’s presence lest he be unforgiving in some matter.

“And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any; that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses” (Mark 11:25).

I believe Jesus is saying, “Don’t stand in God’s presence asking for mountains to be removed or for forgiveness of your sins, if you have a secret grudge in your heart against heaven. Get it out! Let the Spirit of forgiveness flow through you. Cry out to your faithful Father. He has not failed. He will answer. He will supply. Submit yourself and ask Him to forgive you for allowing these doubts to spring up.”

Christmas Is For Those Who Hate It Most
(By Matt B. Redmond)

We are now accustomed to hearing how Christmas is difficult for many people. The story of Scrooge and his - ehem - problems with the season is no longer anecdotal. It is now par for the course. Maybe this has always been the case. Maybe the joy of the season has always been a thorn in the side of those who can scarcely imagine joy.

Not too long ago, I heard from one of these people about how difficult Christmas would be because of some heartbreak in their family. There was utter hopelessness and devastation. Christmas would be impossible to enjoy because of the freshness of the pain. It's been a story hard to forget.

I get it. I mean, it makes sense. Christmas is a time in which there is a lot of heavily concentrated family time. The holidays can be tense in even the best of circumstances. Maneuvering through the landmines of various personalities can be hard even if there is no cancer, divorce or empty seat at the table. What makes it the most wonderful time of the year for one is also what makes it the most brutal time of the year for another. My own family has not been immune to this phenomenon.

I'd like to push back against this idea a little. Gently. I think we have it all backwards. We have it sunk deep into our collective cultural consciousness that Christmas is for the happy people. You know, those with idyllic family situations enjoyed around stocking-strewn hearth dreams. Christmas is for healthy people who laugh easily and at all the right times, right? The successful and the beautiful, who live in suburban bliss, can easily enjoy the holidays. They are beaming after watching a Christmas classic curled up on the couch as a family in front of their ginormous flat-screen drinking perfectly mixed hot cocoa. We live and act as if this is who should be enjoying Christmas.

But this is so damnably backwards. Christmas - the great story of the incarnation of the Rescuer - is for everyone, especially those who need a rescue. Jesus was born as a baby to know the pain and sympathize with our weaknesses. Jesus was made to be like us so that in his resurrection we can be made like him; free from the fear of death and the pain of loss. Jesus' first recorded worshippers were not of the beautiful class. They were poor, most-likely ugly shepherds; beat down by life and labor. They had been looked down on over many a nose.

Jesus came for those who look in the mirror and see ugliness. Jesus came for daughters whose fathers never told them they were beautiful. Christmas is for those who go to "wing night" alone. Christmas is for those whose lives have been wrecked by cancer and the thought of another Christmas seems like an impossible dream. Christmas is for those who would be nothing but lonely if not for social media. Christmas is for those whose marriages have careened against the retaining wall and are threatening to flip over the edge. Christmas is for the son, whose father keeps giving him hunting gear when the son wants art materials. Christmas is for smokers who cannot quit even in the face of a death sentence. Christmas is for whores, adulterers and porn stars who long for love in every wrong place. Christmas is for college students who are sitting in the midst of family and already cannot wait to get out for another drink. Christmas is for those who traffic in failed dreams. Christmas is for those who have squandered the family name and fortune - they want 'home' but cannot imagine a gracious reception. Christmas is for parents watching their children's marriage fall into disarray.
 Christmas is really about the gospel of grace for those who need it. Because of all that Christ has done on the cross, the manger becomes the most hopeful place in a Universe darkened with hopelessness. In the irony of all ironies, Christmas is for those who will find it the hardest to enjoy. It really is for those who hate it the most. 

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Happy Sunday

Do Over

"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9)

I can still remember those games me and my friends played when I was a boy. There were no leagues that we had to join. There were no coaches telling us that we were doing something wrong. There were no officials blowing whistles and enforcing rules. There were just children playing and having a great time. The teams were made up of whomever showed up that day.

The games were filled with joking, laughter and smiles. The rules were whatever we decided they would be. Everyone was allowed to play and more often than not we didn't even keep score. If there ever was a dispute or argument during a game it could always be solved too by those magic words: "Do over."

I know that a lot of us would still love to have a "do over" at times. There isn't a one of us who hasn't wished that we could take back a mistake and start over again. Some people even wish that they could have a "do over" for their whole lives.

Well, the good news is that we can have a "do over" if we want. We may not be able to actually go back in time and take back the mistakes, missteps, and wrong turns that we have made in this life, but we can ask our Heavenly Father to forgive them and know that He will.

Then we can begin again from this moment and start to live our lives the way we have always wanted to. Even if we stumble and fall again the next day, we can ask forgiveness again, rise up and start over once more. God doesn't count the number of times we fall in this life. He only counts the number of times we pick ourselves up to try again.

In truth, every single day of our lives here is a "do over". Each day is another chance to get it right. Each day is another opportunity to love God, ourselves, and others. Each day is fresh start to live in peace and share your joy with others. Make the most of them all.

Joseph J. Mazzella

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Happy Saturday

I'm not ready!
by Os Hillman

"But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness'" (2 Cor 12:9).

If there is one thing that is consistent throughout scripture, it is this: God calls people when they are not ready. God will never call you into service when you think you are ready. This is intentional on God's part.

And, you can be sure when God calls you, you will have similar responses as Saul did when he was called to be the first king, or Gideon, when he was called to take down the idols in his nation, or Moses, when he was called to deliver his people from Egypt.

Saul answered, "But am I not a Benjamite, from the smallest tribe of Israel, and is not my clan the least of all the clans of the tribe of Benjamin? Why do you say such a thing to me?" (1 Sam 9:21).
"But Lord," Gideon asked, "how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family" (Judg 6:15).

But Moses said to God, "Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?" (Ex 3:11).

When God calls, you will most likely be in the most unlikely circumstances to receive that call. You will be in the midst of a crisis, you will lack resources, you will not have the skills you think you need. This too is the way of God. God does this because He wants you to know your call is only based on His ability, not yours. When you think it is based on you, this is a false humility. And, it is unbelief and disobedience on your part.

Has God called you to something you have failed to do because you felt you were not ready? Repent before the Lord and let God accomplish great things through you.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Happy Friday

A Brother Like That
A man named Paul received an automobile from his brother as a Christmas present. On Christmas Eve when Paul came out of his office, a street urchin was walking around the shining new car admiring it. "Is this your car, Mister?" he asked.
Paul nodded. "My brother gave it to me for Christmas." The boy was astounded. "You mean your brother gave it to you and it didn't cost you nothing? Boy, I wish..." He hesitated.
Of course Paul knew what he was going to wish for. He was going to wish he had a brother like that. But what this lad said jarred Paul all the way down to his heels.
"I wish," the boy went on, "that I could be a brother like that."
Paul looked at the boy in astonishment, then impulsively he added, "Would you like to take a ride in my automobile?"
"Oh yes, I'd love that." After a short ride, the boy turned with his eyes aglow and said, "Mister, would you mind driving in front of my house?"
Paul smiled a little. He thought he knew what the lad wanted. He wanted to show his neighbours that he could ride home in a big automobile. But Paul was wrong again. "Will you stop where those two steps are?" the boy asked.
He ran up the steps. Then in a little while Paul heard him coming back, but he was not coming fast. He was carrying his little crippled brother. He sat him down on the bottom step, then sort of squeezed up against him and pointed to the car.
"There she is, Buddy, just like I told you upstairs. His brother gave it to him for Christmas and it didn't cost him a cent. And someday I'm gonna give you one just like it...and you can see for yourself all the pretty things in the Christmas windows that I've been trying to tell you about."
Paul got out and lifted the lad into the front seat of his car. The shining-eyed older brother climbed in beside him and the three of them began a memorable holiday ride.
That Christmas Eve, Paul learned what Jesus meant when he had said: "It's more blessed to give..."

“I do not want merely to possess a faith,
I want a faith that possesses me.”

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Happy Thursday

You Can See God
I sat at my desk staring at the letter for a long time. It was written by a friend of mine who was going through some difficult times. It listed problem after problem and seemed full of despair. It ended with these words: "I would like to have faith, but I have always had a problem in believing in what I can't see. You can't see God, you know!"
After awhile I still hadn't thought of how to answer my friend's letter and help him. Hoping a walk would help, I put a leash on one of my dogs and headed out the back door. The warm, golden sunshine of Spring warmed my face as soon as I stepped off the porch. A fresh breeze carried the scent of a thousand budding trees on it. A butterfly danced above a patch of dandelions floating from flower to flower. Robins were flying back and forth to the Maple tree in my backyard carrying fresh grass and twigs to reline their nests. Across the road my new neighbor's children were playing in her backyard with a big ball. It was such a delight seeing her toddler chasing after it with such joy. I felt a nuzzle against my leg and looked down to see my dog cuddling in for a hug. I smiled and scratched his head while the laughter of the children and the sound of crickets in the woods blended together to create a unique and beautiful music. I started to walk back inside and saw my own son grinning at me from the window. Most of the world could only see his mental handicaps, but when I looked at him then his eyes sparkled with a divine light. I waved to him and laughed when his older sister snuck up behind him and wrapped him in a loving hug.
When I got back inside, I knew what to write. I went to my friend's letter and wrote of everything I had just seen, smelled, heard, and felt in those brief moments outside. Then I finished by writing this:
"I think we all can see God! We just need to know where to look!"

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Happy Wednesday

Balance the Natural and the Spiritual
by Os Hillman

"No king is saved by the size of his army; no warrior escapes by his great strength. A horse is a vain hope for deliverance; despite all its great strength it cannot save" (Psalm 33:16-17).

The Bible tells us not to put our confidence in things the world considers to be our protection, defense, or strength. However, the man or woman who does not perform well on the job is left behind in today's competitive world. Not only is this typical of the world at large, but even many Christians promote the importance of identifying our strengths and encourage us to move in them to accomplish God's will. Yet, throughout the Bible, we are discouraged from depending upon our own strengths. Instead, we are urged to rely totally upon the Lord.

God wants us to depend upon Him, and He demonstrates this throughout Scripture. For example, in Judges 7, God wouldn't let Gideon fight against another army until he reduced his own from 22,000 soldiers to a mere 300, so that Gideon could not boast about his army's strength.

In Joshua 6, God told Joshua to walk around Jericho seven times and blow trumpets instead of relying upon his mighty army to overpower his enemy.

In 2 Samuel 24, God judged David when he counted his troops to determine the size of his army's strength, apparently because David took the census out of pride or overconfidence in the strength of his army.

On the other hand, Jesus instructed the disciples in due diligence through the parable of the builder, who is cautioned to consider the cost before beginning to build. "Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, 'This fellow began to build and was not able to finish'" (Luke 14:28-30).

Today, bring every project and endeavor before the Lord as you ask for His power and grace to accomplish it using both your natural gifts and the Spirit of God working together.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Happy Tuesday

A Little Peace of Christmas 
by Zoe Elmore

"Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord." Luke 2:11 (NIV)

When I was young, I would lie under the Christmas tree every night just before bed time watching the lights dance over the ornaments. I loved how the smell of the tree gently hung in the air of our tiny living room. My dad and I used to sing along with Bing Crosby, and my mom would let me watch as she baked baklava (our family's version of Christmas cookies). Now I'm aware that times were simpler then and I was a just child, but these traditions always seemed to usher in a peaceful holiday season for my family.

Today I'm so weary of commercialism and the fast pace of Christmas; the entire holiday season seems to come and go before I ever have time to enjoy the "reason for the season." Maybe it's just my age talking, but I'm longing to experience a little "peace" of Christmas like I used to - but making that a reality in the midst of family and work obligations seems an impossible task.

As I was pondering this dilemma, I re-read this verse in Luke and paid close attention to the word "today." That's it! The answer to my desire for a little "peace of Christmas" is in that one word. Today I will commit everything I do to my sweet Jesus. Today I'll sing every Christmas carol at the top of my voice for His glory. Today I'll honor Christ as I decorate our home by placing a nativity set in my Christmas tree. Today this nativity will serve as a reminder that He was born in order to die on a tree so that I could experience His peace not only at Christmas, but every day. Today I'll bake baklava and share it with the new neighbors as a way to extend the grace Christ has given me. Today I'll call someone who is lonely and hurting and offer my shoulder for his or her tears. Thank you Lord, for You've shown me the way to experience that little "peace of Christmas" my heart has been longing for. That peace begins today.

If you're longing to experience a little peace of Christmas but are wondering if it's possible, let me encourage you to just begin with today. Begin with a fresh commitment to fulfill all of your responsibilities and obligations for the glory of the Lord. Bake each cookie or wrap each gift as if you were presenting it to your sweet Jesus personally. Sing every song you hear on the radio, and decorate each corner of your home as if Christ Himself were your honored guest because He is the unseen honored guest of your today, tomorrow and forever. Love Him now, worship Him now, and then experience a little "peace of Christmas" of your very own.

"Dear Lord, I want to pause during this busy but joyous season to give You the honor and glory You deserve. Help me to remember as I celebrate Your birth that Your greatest gift to me was your very life. In Jesus' Name, Amen."

Application Steps:
- Ask the Lord to identify the activities He would have you be involved in this holy season and be willing to say "no" as the Lord leads.
- What steps can you take to make a little "peace of Christmas" a reality for you and your family today?
- Look at your schedule for today. Have you carved out any time for Christ, the honored guest?

Monday, December 16, 2013

Happy Monday

The Night the Angels Spoke
By Skip Heitzig
As a child, Christmas Eve was the one night of the year when I just couldn’t sleep. I would lie with eyes wide open, wondering what presents I’d find under the tree the next morning. And in my imagination, I’d listen for the sounds of a sleigh and the echo of “Ho, ho, ho!” But that’s only a fable built around a long-dead man from Turkey named Nicholas, a devout Christian known for his generosity to those in need and his love for children.

As an adult, I still lie awake on that holy night. But now I think of the true story of Christmas. I think how the night that Jesus Christ was born was different from any other night in history. My mind’s eye sees the shepherds watching their flocks by night in the hills surrounding Bethlehem. I try to imagine the astonishment of those simple men the night the angels spoke:

“Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord’” (Luke 2:8-11).

The word “angel” means messenger, and it refers to a special class of beings. Their purpose is to praise God in heaven and to do His bidding here on earth. They are invisible most of the time, except for certain occasions when God allows them to be seen by man. On the first Christmas Eve, God sent them with the joyous message that Jesus Christ was born.

Isn’t it amazing that the glorious news the angels came to proclaim was not brought to kings and dignitaries but to lowly shepherds…members of the lowest social group? But God sent the angels to speak to these men, and when they heard the message they instantly responded to it and then proclaimed it to others. Scripture tells us “they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child” (vv. 16-17).

The glorious news from the angels is the message proclaimed throughout the Bible: ”There is born to you…a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (v. 11). It doesn’t matter where you fit on society’s social scale. It doesn’t matter whether you live in the city or the country. The message of Christmas resonates through time. Have you heard the angels speak? They’re telling you of the Savior who was born, Christ the Lord. Won’t you follow the shepherds’ example by making haste to find Him? Won’t you share this Good News with everyone in your path?
May you have a wondrous and holy Christmas!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Happy Sunday

Thought for Today
"...It takes a lot more faith to believe that some matter somehow compressed itself into a dense ball, then suddenly exploded for an unknown reason, gathered into gaseous balls called stars, and one star happened to have planets around it, and one planet happened to be able to support life, which evolved from cooling lava to amoebas to fish to apes to people. All that versus 'In the beginning God created the Heavens and the Earth.'" - Jesse Myers 

Giving, Not Getting
 By Karen Ehman

"A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families ..." Psalm 68:5-6a (NIV 1984)

"It's the most wonderful time of the year!" The loudspeaker blared out the joyful lyrics of the familiar holiday song that snowy Christmas Eve afternoon.

Everywhere I glanced, people were searching for last-minute gift purchases, holiday baking ingredients or that one final string of twinkle lights that would make their Christmas downright Norman Rockwell perfect.

However, as I stood in line paying for the ingredients for my assigned Cheesy Potato casserole for our family gathering, a lump formed in my throat. Soon my lips quivered and hot tears fell onto my wind-chapped cheeks.

How can everyone be so happy? Why is the world going on as if nothing happened? My friend Julie died last night leaving behind a husband and eight children who need her. Doesn't anyone care?

I wanted to scream. And I wanted Christmas to be cancelled that year. There was no holiday cheer in me and I thought the rest of the world should follow suit and just 'humbug' the whole celebration.

Our family made it through that holiday. My young children, although sad about their friends' mother's death, perked up Christmas morning, eager to open their gifts. My husband and I carried on with our normal life and, over the next few months, tried to help lighten the load of our now widower friend.

Several in our circle of friends made meals on a weekly basis. A college girl offered to clean their home. One of Julie's sons joined our homeschool for kindergarten a few days each week. Although we still experienced great heartache knowing our friend wasn't coming back, lightening her husband's load and cheering the children made us feel as if we were fulfilling the mission God had for us.

Ever since that year, our family has become even more aware of the fact that for many, Christmas isn't the most wonderful time of the year. It is downright painful.

Loneliness looms. Depressions darken. Even suicides soar. While scores of us delight in the season, drinking the sights, sounds and smells, others are numb from pain and despise the season.

And so I'm reminded of what a sweet neighbor of mine once told me, "Christmas is an excuse for making someone's life better." She was so right! There are souls waiting to be encouraged and included at the holidays. If only we would cease our own sometimes self-focused hustle and bustle long enough to see!

After that sad season, we've made it our mission to reach out at the holidays more than we play the commercialized "gimmee game."

Christmas is not about getting. Its very essence is giving.
When our family has been intentional about being Jesus' hands and feet at the holidays, He has allowed us to brighten the lives of many. We sing Christmas carols to shut-ins, decorate homes and address Christmas cards for widows, shop for the needy, bake for the broken-hearted, and often include the lonely in our normal Christmas activities as if they were part of our family.

Because really, they are. Maybe it is your family God wants to set a lonely soul in this year.

Let's vow this Christmas to make someone's life better, richer in love, and fuller in the comforts of knowing they are noticed and cared for.

Dear Lord, at this time when You sent Christ to earth, may I too reach out to make someone's life richer, fuller and far less lonely. I want to be Your hands and feet. In Jesus' Name, Amen.