Daily Devotional

  • A Special Post for Sunday, December 17th - "A Beautiful Christmas Story"

    A BEAUTIFUL CHRISTMAS STORY

    About a week before Christmas the family bought a new nativity scene. When they unpacked it they found 2 figures of the Baby Jesus. "Someone must have packed this wrong," the mother said, counting out the figures. "We have one Joseph, one Mary, three wise men, three shepherds, two lambs, a donkey, a cow, an angel and two babies. Oh, dear! I suppose some set down at the store is missing a Baby Jesus because we have 2."

    "You two run back down to the store and tell the manager that we have an extra Jesus. Tell him to put a sign on the remaining boxes saying that if a set is missing a Baby Jesus, call 7126. Put on your warm coats, it's freezing cold out there."

    The manager of the store copied down mother's message and the next time they were in the store they saw the cardboard sign that read, "If you're missing Baby Jesus, call 7126." All week long they waited for someone to call. Surely, they thought, someone was missing that important figurine. Each time the phone rang mother would say, "I'll bet that's about Jesus," but it never was.

    Father tried to explain there are thousands of these scattered over the country and the figurine could be missing from a set in Florida or Texas or California. Those packing mistakes happen all the time. He suggested just put the extra Jesus back in the box and forget about it.

    "Put Baby Jesus back in the box! What a terrible thing to do," said the children. "Surely someone will call," mother said. "We'll just keep the two of them together in the manger until someone calls."

    When no call had come by 5:00 on Christmas Eve, mother insisted that father "just run down to the store" to see if there were any sets left. "You can see them right through the window, over on the counter," she said. "If they are all gone, I'll know someone is bound to call tonight."

    "Run down to the store?" father thundered. "It's 15 below zero out there!"

    "Oh, Daddy, we'll go with you," Tommy and Mary began to put on their coats. Father gave a long sigh and headed for the front closet. "I can't believe I'm doing this," he muttered. Tommy and Mary ran ahead as father reluctantly walked out in the cold. Mary got to the store first and pressed her nose up to the store window. "They're all gone, Daddy," she shouted. "Every set must be sold."

    "Hooray," Tommy said. "The mystery will now be solved tonight!"

    Father heard the news still a half block away and immediately turned on his heel and headed back home. When they got back into the house they noticed that mother was gone and so was the extra Baby Jesus figurine. "Someone must have called and she went out to deliver the figurine," my father reasoned, pulling off his boots. "You kids get ready for bed while I wrap mother's present."

    Then the phone rang. Father yelled "answer the phone and tell 'em we found a home for Jesus." But it was mother calling with instructions for us to come to 205 Chestnut Street immediately, and bring three blankets, a box of cookies and some milk. "Now what has she gotten us into?" my father groaned as we bundled up again. "205 Chestnut. Why that's across town. Wrap that milk up good in the blankets or it will turn to ice before we get there. Why can't we all just get on with Christmas? It's probably 20 below out there now. And the wind is picking up. Of all the crazy things to do on a night like this."

    When they got to the house at 205 Chestnut Street it was the darkest one on the block. Only one tiny light burned in the living room and, the moment we set foot on the porch steps, my mother opened the door and shouted, "They're here, Oh thank God you got here, Ray! You kids take those blankets into the living room and wrap up the little ones on the couch. I'll take the milk and cookies."

    "Would you mind telling me what is going on, Ethel?" my father asked. "We have just walked through below zero weather with the wind in our faces all the way."

    "Never mind all that now," my mother interrupted. "There isn't any heat in this house and this young mother is so upset she doesn't know what to do. Her husband walked out on her and those poor little children will have a very bleak Christmas, so don't you complain. I told her you could fix that oil furnace in a jiffy."

    My mother strode off to the kitchen to warm the milk while my brother and I wrapped up the five little children who were huddled together on the couch. The children's mother explained to my father that her husband had run off, taking bedding, clothing, and almost every piece of furniture, but she had been doing all right until the furnace broke down.

    "I been doin' washin' and ironin' for people and cleanin' the five and dime," she said. "I saw your number every day there, on those boxes on the counter. When the furnace went out, that number kept going' through my mind. 7162 7162. Said on the box that if a person was missin' Jesus, they should call you. That's how I knew you were good Christian people, willin' to help folks. I figured that maybe you would help me, too. So I stopped at the grocery store tonight and I called your misses. I'm not missin' Jesus, mister, because I sure love the Lord. But I am missin' heat. I have no money to fix that furnace."

    "Okay, Okay," said father. "You've come to the right place. Now let's see. You've got a little oil burner over there in the dining room. Shouldn't be too hard to fix. Probably just a clogged flue. I'll look it over, see what it needs."

    Mother came into the living room carrying a plate of cookies and warm milk. As she set the cups down on the coffee table, I noticed the figure of Baby Jesus lying in the center of the table. It was the only sign of Christmas in the house. The children stared wide-eyed with wonder at the plate of cookies my mother set before them.

    Father finally got the oil burner working but said, "You need more oil. I'll make a few calls tonight and get some oil. Yes sir, you came to the right place", father grinned.

    On the way home father did not complain about the cold weather and had barely set foot inside the door when he was on the phone. "Ed, hey, how are ya, Ed?"

    "Yes, Merry Christmas to you, too. Say Ed, we have kind of an unusual situation here. I know you've got that pick-up truck. Do you still have some oil in that barrel on your truck? You do?"

    By this time the rest of the family were pulling clothes out of their closets and toys off of their shelves. It was long after their bedtime when they were wrapping gifts. The pickup came. On it were chairs, three lamps, blankets and gifts. Even though it was 30 below, father let them ride along in the back of the truck. No one ever did call about the missing figure in the nativity set, but as I grow older I realize that it wasn't a packing mistake at all.

    Jesus saves, that's what He does.

  • The Necessity of a Savior - Being Saved to the Uttermost - Friday, December 15th

    For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. Romans 5:10

    Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.1 Corinthians 6:19-20

    I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. Galatians. 2:20

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    It is very important to realize that often we who have trusted Christ to be our Savior, have not let the word “Savior” deal the full slap in the face we need. Yes, we get it that we need a Savior in one way. We know we need Christ to do for us what we cannot do ourselves - pay the price of sin so that our sin is forgiven and we are made right with God. However, Jesus did not come to earth and die for us merely so that we might be forgiven from our sin. Jesus was raised so that He might come and live in us and do for us something else we cannot do for ourselves – live life the way it was intended to be lived. Jesus wants to save us from both the penalty and power of sin. The “forgiveness of sins” is the means by which God establishes His presence in our lives so that the life we live is His doing. Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit wants to “save” us from the futility of trying to live for Him in some way other than Him doing it for us.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, I am thankful that the angel’s pronouncement of the Savior’s birth declares loud and clear that mankind has blown it and needs to be fixed. I am so glad you are my Savior. You deliver me from the futility of trying to “get right” with you and the futility of trying to “live right” for you. By grace you do for me what I absolutely cannot do for myself. What a gift your grace is to me. This Christmas will be all about basking and thriving in grace. Amen!

  • The Necessity of a Savior - The Clear Message of Scripture - Thursday, December 14th

    (The format for today’s Devotional is different from the usual. Running down the left hand margin are the words to John 3:16. Each of the more prominent words of this verse has an additional verse to go with it)

    For

    God - Isaiah 45:21-22 – “Declare and set forth your case; indeed, let them consult together. Who has announced this from of old? Who has long since declared it? Is it not I, the LORD? And there is no other God besides Me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none except Me. Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other.

    so

    loved - 1 John 4:9-10 – “By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”

    the

    world - John 1:9-10 – “There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him.”

    that He

    gave - James 1:17 – “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.”

    His only begotten 

    Son - Hebrews 1:1-3 – “God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.”

    that whoever

    believes - John 1:12 – “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.”

    in Him shall 

    not perish - 2 Peter 3:9 – “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.”

    but have

    eternal life - 1 John 5:13 – “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.”

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    Write down your own thoughts that come to you from these Scriptures.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    A Prayer of Believing

    More than just a baby, Jesus you came to be my savior. Today, I confess my need for a Savior – for the forgiveness that can only be found in Jesus Christ. I believe that you, Jesus Christ, are God, born into a humble manger to redeem me. Your grace and mercy are the greatest gifts, and I accept them. Guide me as I seek to follow you and your words. Amen!

  • The Necessity of a Savior - Our Response of Faith Is Key - Wednesday, December 13th

    For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. John 3:17

    He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God. John 3:18-21

    For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost. Luke 19:10

    The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9

    I have come as Light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me will not remain in darkness. If anyone hears My sayings and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. He who rejects Me and does not receive My sayings, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day. John 12:46-48

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    We can be very thankful that God does not ask us to measure up because it is something we could never do. No matter how much we want to or how hard we try, we can never accomplish it. This is clearly demonstrated in the Old Testament through God giving His people the law. We are told in the New Testament that the law was not given as a means for people to measure up, but rather as a means of showing all of us that we are spiritually incapable of meeting God’s standards. Only the grace of God and the provision of a Savior who freely extends to us the forgiveness of sins can turn the tide. Christ’s death on the cross accomplishes the forgiveness of sins and it is our response to him in extending that forgiveness that makes all the difference.

    Sin is a huge problem. It separates us from God. Christ took care of sin on the cross to fix the problem. If our response to Christ is a faith response, we are letting the Savior save us. If we our response to Christ is a response of unbelief, we are not letting the Savior save us. So, the difference between one person and the next does not rest in whether they measure up or not, but rather in what they have done with Christ. This why the John 3 passage above says, “He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, thank you for being my Savior. You extended the gift of the forgiveness of sins to me and I responded to you in faith. You have saved me and I am no longer under the judgment of unbelief. Thank you for not letting me get stuck in unbelief. I know a Savior is what I needed and a Savior is why I have. I am forever forgiven and set free. Hallelujah! Amen!

  • The Necessity of a Savior - Humans Cannot Cure Themselves - Tuesday December 12th

    For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. John 3:16

    Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God; because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin. But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus. Romans 3:19-24

    But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. Titus 3:4-7

    We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world. 1 John 4:14

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    The Scriptures overflow with the magnificent truth that Jesus Christ and His salvation provision are a gift from God freely bestowed by grace upon any and all who will simply believe. However, our very nature, the people around us, and the culture we live in, condition and recondition us with the all-consuming notion that “getting” comes from “doing.” Oh how deep this runs and it permeates every aspect of our lives. Salvation and the forgiveness it offers are the result of God “giving” with no strings attached. There is absolutely nothing we can ever “do” to “get” it. Believing is the antithesis of doing. Believing is resting in that which God has already done for us and which we could never, ever do for ourselves.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, the reality of grace is so hard to sustain on an actual conscious level. It is so foreign to my natural orientation. I confess that I regularly default back to my doing/achieving mode of operating. Convince me more than ever before that I am truly spiritually helpless. Help me to die to self-effort and make me fully alive to grace and resting in your complete and sufficient provision in Christ, the one only true Savior. Amen!

  • The Necessity of a Savior - Christ Fixes a Lost Humanity - Monday, December 11th

    But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:10-11

    When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. Colossians 2:13-14

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    The spectacular angelic announcement of the great good news of Christ’s birth zeros in on one all-important word: Savior. For those who have realized their need for a Savior, we read that announcement and our hearts overflow with gratitude that God intervened and sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, to be our Savior. For everyone else it remains a slap in the face. The announcement is an indictment that mankind has blown it and that God is stepping into the situation to provide the necessary fix for a very bad state of affairs. 

    Today many hear the Christmas story, even with important Biblical details included, and because they have been inoculated with steady doses of it over the years, they hear the word Savior and feel no slap at all. It has become to them a flowery expression that does not touch their hearts in any significant way. God desires that everyone would truly believe that they need a Savior, that the Savior was born in a manger and died on a cross, and that this one and only Savior, Jesus Christ, is their personal Savior from the devastation of sin. May this desire be significantly realized this Christmas with many, many people truly responding to the Savior in full.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, my heart does overflow with gratitude that you intervened for a lost humanity by providing a Savior. Thank you for helping me awaken to the indictment of the announcement and truly see my need for a Savior. I really was spiritually dead but you forgave my debt and made me alive in Christ. I rejoice in the Good News that the Savior was born to fix a fallen humanity. Amen!

  • A Special Post for Saturday, December 9th - "A Child Shows the Way"

    A Child Shows the Way

    We were the only family with children in the restaurant. I sat Erik in a high chair and noticed everyone was quietly eating and talking.

    Suddenly, Erik squealed with glee and said, "Hi there." He pounded his fat baby hands on the high chair tray. His eyes were crinkled in laughter and his mouth was bared in a toothless grin, as he wriggled and giggled with merriment.

    I looked around and saw the source of his merriment. It was a man whose pants were baggy with a zipper at half-mast and his toes poked out of would-be shoes. His shirt was dirty and his hair was uncombed and unwashed. His whiskers were too short to be called a beard and his nose was so varicose it looked like a road map. We were too far from him to smell, but I was sure he smelled. His hands waved and flapped on loose wrists.

    "Hi there, baby; Hi there, big boy. I see ya, buster," the man said to Erik.

    My husband and I exchanged looks, "What do we do?"

    Erik continued to laugh and answer, "Hi, hi there." Everyone in the restaurant noticed and looked at us and then at the man.

    The old geezer was creating a nuisance with my beautiful baby.

    Our meal came and the man began shouting from across the room, "Do ya patty cake? Do you know peek-a-boo? Hey, look, he knows peek-a-boo."

    Nobody thought the old man was cute. He was obviously drunk.

    My husband and I were embarrassed. We ate in silence; all except for Erik, who was running through his repertoire for the admiring skidrow bum, who in turn, reciprocated with his cute comments.

    We finally got through the meal and headed for the door. My husband went to pay the check and told me to meet him in the parking lot.

    The old man sat poised between me and the door. "Lord, just let me out of here before he speaks to me or Erik," I prayed.

    As I drew closer to the man, I turned my back trying to sidestep him and avoid any air he might be breathing. As I did, Erik leaned over my arm, reaching with both arms in a baby's "pick-me-up" position.

    Before I could stop him, Erik had propelled himself from my arms to the man's. Suddenly a very old smelly man and a very young baby consummated their love relationship.

    Erik in an act of total trust, love, and submission laid his tiny head upon the man's ragged shoulder. The man's eyes closed, and I saw tears hover beneath his lashes. His aged
    hands full of grime, pain, and hard labor, cradled my baby's
    bottom and stroked his back.

    No two beings have ever loved so deeply for so short a time. I stood awestruck.

    The old man rocked and cradled Erik in his arms and his eyes opened and set squarely on mine. He said in a firm commanding voice, "You take care of this baby."

    Somehow I managed, "I will," from a throat that contained a stone.

    He pried Erik from his chest unwillingly, longingly, as though he were in pain. I received my baby, and the man said, "God bless you, ma'am, you've given me my Christmas gift." I said nothing more than a muttered thanks.

    With Erik in my arms, I ran for the car. My husband was wondering why was crying and holding Erik so tightly, and why I was saying, "My God, my God, forgive me." I had just witnessed Christ's love shown through the innocence of a tiny child who saw no sin, who made no judgment; a child who saw a soul, and a mother who saw a suit of clothes.

    I was a Christian who was blind, holding a child who was not. I felt it was God asking, "Are you willing to share your son for a moment?" when He shared His for all eternity. The ragged old man, unwittingly, had reminded me, "To enter the Kingdom of God, we must become as little children."

  • The Blessing of "Lowly" - Producing a Genuinely "Blessed" Mentality - Friday, December 8th

    And they will sing of the ways of the Lord, for great is the glory of the Lord. For though the Lord is exalted, yet He regards the lowly. But the haughty He knows from afar. Psalm 138:5-6

    Woe to those who deeply hide their plans from the Lord, and whose deeds are done in a dark place, and they say, “Who sees us?” or “Who knows us?” You turn things around! Shall the potter be considered as equal with the clay, that what is made would say to its maker, “He did not make me”; or what is formed say to him who formed it, “He has no understanding”? Isaiah 29:15-16

    But now, O Lord, You are our Father, we are the clay, and You our potter; and all of us are the work of Your hand. Isaiah 64:8

    Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you. James 4:10

    Today's thoughts from today's verses

    God must truly be bewildered with us at times. How much we know in our heads about Him and His dealings with us and still we often face the things that come our way as if we didn’t know Him and the wonderful way he goes about doing what He does. Is there really any justifiable reason for us to ever say “why me?” Oh that we might reckon with and count on God’s transforming presence in the “lowly” things of life. Perhaps our prayer should be, “Lord deliver me from all that is not “lowly,” that robs me of the joy of your presence and the miraculous ways your make all things beautiful.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, thank you for the original Christmas story and all the “lowly “ aspects of Christ’s birth contained in it. Thank you for the beauty in the story that springs forth so readily and startlingly from all that is “lowly “ and the powerful lesson it is for me in my life today. I really do want you to deliver me from all that is not “lowly “ and robs me of the joy of your presence and the miraculous ways you make all things beautiful. I really do choose to go forward counting on your transforming presence in the “lowly” things of my life. Amen!

  • The Blessing of "Lowly" - Recognizing God's Transforming Presence - Thursday, December 7th

    But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Luke 2:10-12

    Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you. James 4:10

    For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippines 1:6

    Hear the word of the LORD, O nations, and declare in the coastlands afar off, and say, “He who scattered Israel will gather him and keep him as a shepherd keeps his flock. For the LORD has ransomed Jacob and redeemed him from the hand of him who was stronger than he. They will come and shout for joy on the height of Zion, and they will be radiant over the bounty of the LORD--over the grain and the new wine and the oil, and over the young of the flock and the herd; and their life will be like a watered garden, and they will never languish again. Then the virgin will rejoice in the dance, and the young men and the old, together, for I will turn their mourning into joy and will comfort them and give them joy for their sorrow. I will fill the soul of the priests with abundance, and My people will be satisfied with My goodness,” declares the LORD. Jeremiah 31:10-14

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    We all have things in our lives that are less than we would like them to be; things that are weak, broken, disappointing, etc. As we learn the lesson that there is “more” to these things than we see them to be, we are beginning to reckon with God’s transforming presence. He is the “more” we are learning to count on and it is in these “lowly” things of life that He shows up. Perhaps this is because he uses the “lowly” to “lower” us so that we are in a position to recognize His transforming presence. When we begin to see God at work in the “lowly” things of our lives we are blessed and it is only the beginning. The Scriptures say, “Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him.” It also says, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, what a lowly beginning: a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manager. What an amazing outcome: a Savior who provides redemption for the world. Thank you for redeeming me. Truly, you have turned my mourning and sorrow into joy through the comfort of your forgiveness. From the lowly place of separation from you, you have exalted me by lifting me up into your transforming presence. I am forever blessed. Amen!

  • The Blessing of "Lowly" - Leading to the "Towering" Things of God - Wednesday, December 6th

    In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people.” Luke 2:8-10

    So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger. Luke 2:16

    When it was evening, the disciples came to Him and said, “This place is desolate and the hour is already late; so send the crowds away, that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” But Jesus said to them, “They do not need to go away; you give them something to eat!” They said to Him, “We have here only five loaves and two fish.” And He said, “Bring them here to Me.” Ordering the people to sit down on the grass, He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up toward heaven, He blessed the food, and breaking the loaves He gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds, and they all ate and were satisfied. They picked up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve full baskets. There were about five thousand men who ate, besides women and children. Matthew 14:15-21

    Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will also come with you.” They went out and got into the boat; and that night they caught nothing. But when the day was now breaking, Jesus stood on the beach; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. So Jesus said to them, “Children, you do not have any fish, do you?” They answered Him, “No.” And He said to them, “Cast the net on the right-hand side of the boat and you will find a catch.” So they cast, and then they were not able to haul it in because of the great number of fish. John 21:3-6

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    For the participants of this miraculous birth, there was nothing lowly about it at all. There were God’s marvelous dealings with Mary and Joseph, the amazing appearance of the angelic choir, the triumphant angelic message of the Messiah’s birth, and the startling wonder of what was taking place and where it would all lead. Participating in a supernatural working of God leaves little desire in the hearts of the participants for the glitter, glamour, and glory of mere human celebration. Perhaps our vain pursuits of things that do not last cause us to stay clear of “lowly” things and keep us from being in position to recognize the “towering” things (feeding multitudes and finding a great catch) God is waiting to do through humble servants with meager means.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, I look up toward heaven in anticipation of your miraculous provision. In doing so I take my eyes off of earthly glitter, glamour, and glory. I believe that in the midst of the “lowly” you will allow me to join you in the supernatural things you are doing today to bless the world. The good news of great joy is for all the people. My desire is for my life to be used to help others find their way to the Savior. Amen!

  • The Blessing of "Lowly" - Gaining Christ with His Surpassing Value - Tuesday, December 5th

    And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. Luke 2:7

    He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities--all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. For it was the Father's good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him. Colossians 1:15-19

    But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith. Philippines 3:7-9

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    If we had been in charge of making the arrangements for the birth of Christ, we would have made very different arrangements. We would not have chosen such “lowly” conditions. One of the things we would probably have wanted to do would have been to make Christ’s birth widely known. It is amazing how few there were that really knew and that is part of the reason for the “lowly” birth. But it also had to do with the kind of people who knew. For the most part God reveals Himself and what He is doing to those who are humble and have open hearts. Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds are not a random cast of characters. These are ones who were receptive and then responsive to God and the amazing event of the birth of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. They were “lowly” themselves, having little of the world’s resources – they had little to get in the way of them participating fully in the most amazing event in all of history – God giving the world His only begotten Son. As a result there was little to get in the way of the baby being the centerpiece of this historic occasion.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, deliver me from the curse of earthy things that appeal to my eye and capture my heart. There is so much that interferes with and even keeps me from you. I, too, count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing you so that I may gain you and your righteousness in a fuller way than ever before. Lord, I love you, worship you, and yield to you. Amen!

  • The Blessing of "Lowly" - Challenging What We Welcome and Value - Monday, December 4th

    Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child. While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. Luke 2:4-6

    Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us--for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”-- in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. Galatians 3:13-14

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    The news of Mary’s pregnancy significantly impacted Joseph in a couple of ways: (1) his sense of loss as a result of Mary becoming pregnant and it nullifying everything he had been anticipating and (2) his sense of amazement at being drawn into something much bigger than himself that allowed him to go forward with the familiar, taking Mary as his wife, but thrust him into unimaginable territory - being married to the mother of heavenly offspring. The imagery of “Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree” reminds us that there is always more than meets the eye. Just like we would not normally choose such a tree nor choose a pregnancy before our wedding day, we would not choose the conditions that made up the birth of Christ nor the outcome of Jesus dying on a tree. So, knowing there is much more than meets the eye in the amazing story of Christ’s birth, maybe we are beginning to get the idea that the “Charlie Brown Christmas Trees” of our lives should be welcomed and valued greatly. This week we focus on the “lowly” scene of Christ’s birth knowing that there is much, much more than meets the eye. Hopefully we will come away better prepared to face those supposed “lowly” moments of life in a way that allows us to exchange our “why me – I am a victim” mentality for a “yes me – I am blessed” mentality,

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, knowing you, loving you, and living for you is so radical. Help me to step more fully and readily into the realm of the “lowly.” I am so prone to welcoming and valuing the supposed “higher” end of earthly life. Far too often I reduce you to being my “ticket” for being kept from the “lowly” and for getting in on the “higher” aspects of life. Open up the realm of the “lowly” and the blessing of things that don’t readily “meet the eye.” I am ready for the adventure of the radical life you have called me to. Amen!

  • Special post for Saturday, December 2nd - "The Gold and Ivory Tablecloth"

    The Gold and Ivory Tablecloth

    A pastor who was very young pastures a church that was very old. Once, long ago, it had flourished. Famous men had preached from its pulpit, prayed before its altar. Rich and poor alike had worshiped there and built it beautifully. Now the good days had passed from the section of town where it stood. But the pastor and his young wife believed in their run-down church. They felt that with paint, hammer, and faith, they could get it in shape. Together they went to work.

    But late in December, a severe storm whipped through the river valley, and the worst blow fell on the little church—a huge chunk of rain-soaked plaster fell out of the inside wall just behind the altar. Sorrowfully the pastor and his wife swept away the mess, but they couldn’t hide the ragged hole. The pastor looked at it and had to remind himself quickly, “Thy will be done!”

    The joyful purpose of the storm that had knocked a hole in the wall of the church was not quite clear.

    But his wife wept, “Christmas is only two days away!”

    That afternoon the dispirited couple attended an auction held for the benefit of a youth group. The auctioneer opened a box and shook out of its folds a handsome gold-and-ivory lace tablecloth. It was a magnificent item, nearly 15 feet long. But it, too, dated from a long-vanished era. Who, today, had any use for such a thing? There were a few halfhearted bids. Then the pastor was seized with what he thought was a great idea. He bid it in for six dollars and fifty cents.

    He carried the cloth back to the church and tacked it up on the wall behind the altar. It completely hid the hole! And the extraordinary beauty of its shimmering handwork cast a fine, holiday glow over the chancel. It was a great triumph. Happily he went back to preparing his Christmas sermon.

    Just before noon on the day of Christmas Eve, as the pastor was opening the church, he noticed a woman standing in the cold at the bus stop.

    “The bus won’t be here for 40 minutes!” he called, and he invited her into the church to get warm.

    She told him that she had come from the city that morning to be interviewed for a job as governess to the children of one of the wealthy families in town but she had been turned down. A war refugee, she had imperfect English.

    The woman sat down in a pew and chafed her hands and rested. After a while, she dropped her head and prayed. She looked up as the pastor began to adjust the great gold-and-ivory lace cloth across the hole. She rose suddenly and walked up the steps of the chancel. She looked at the tablecloth. The pastor smiled and started to tell her about the storm damage, but she didn’t seem to listen. She took up a fold of the cloth and rubbed it between her fingers.

    “It is mine!” she said. “It is my banquet cloth!” She lifted up a corner and showed the surprised pastor that there were initials monogrammed on it. “My husband had the cloth made especially for me in Brussels! There could not be another like it!”

    For the next few minutes, the woman and the pastor talked excitedly together. She explained that she was Viennese, that she and her husband had opposed the Nazis and decided to leave the country. They were advised to go separately. Her husband put her on a train for Switzerland. They planned that he would join her as soon as he could arrange to ship their household goods across the border.

    She never saw him again. Later she heard that he had died in a concentration camp.

    “I have always felt that it was my fault—to leave without him,” she said. “Perhaps these years of wandering have been my punishment!”

    The pastor tried to comfort her, urged her to take the cloth with her. She refused. Then she went away.

    As the church began to fill on Christmas Eve, it was clear that the cloth was going to be a great success. It had been skillfully designed to look its best by candlelight.

    After the service, the pastor stood at the doorway; many people told him that the church looked beautiful. One gentle-faced, middle-aged man—he was the local clock-and-watch repairman—looked rather puzzled.

    “It is strange,” he said in his soft accent. “Many years ago, my wife—God rest her—and I owned such a cloth. In our home in Vienna, my wife put it on the table”—and here he smiled—“only when the bishop came to dinner!”

    The pastor suddenly became very excited. He told the jeweler about the woman who had been in church earlier in the day.

    The startled jeweler clutched the pastor’s arm. “Can it be? Does she live?”

    Together the two got in touch with the family who had interviewed her. Then, in the pastor’s car, they started for the city. And as Christmas Day was born, this man and his wife—who had been separated through so many saddened Yuletides—were reunited.

    To all who heard this story, the joyful purpose of the storm that had knocked a hole in the wall of the church was now quite clear. Of course, people said it was a miracle, but I think you will agree it was the season for it!

    “The Gold & Ivory Tablecloth” is one of 38 uplifting tales in the Reader’s Digest Treasury of Joy and Inspiration. 

  • The Gift of God's Grace - Passed On By Our Active Faith - Friday, December 1st

    So when it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” And when He had said this, He showed them both His hands and His side. The disciples then rejoiced when they saw the Lord. So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” John 20:19-21

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    How we respond when things are not what we want them to be makes all the difference. God’s grace makes beautiful those things that are less than we think them to be. Jesus was sent by the Father to pour out grace and to establish us in it. As ones who are established in grace, Jesus sends us to extend grace. By walking in grace, the people, circumstances, and things of our lives are touched by grace. But we cannot walk in grace if we are not always being touched by grace. This requires an active faith that continually recognizes that apart from God’s grace we are helpless and will always be very much less than we ought to be otherwise. This recognition fosters absolute surrender and full dependence on God’s indwelling presence. How prone we are to walk by sight instead of by faith. Faith sees the potential for beauty in all things through the touch of God’s grace offered in His Son, Jesus Christ. What an opportunity we have this Christmas to bestow the gift of grace on everyone and everything around us.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, I do recognize that apart from you and the touch of your grace I am helpless. I don’t want to settle for something less than living fully for you. I choose the path of surrender and dependence. Stretch my faith so that it is more alive and active than ever before. I choose to be gracious this Christmas and fully engaged in bringing your grace to others. Use my life to help someone embrace you as Savior and Lord this Christmas. Amen!

    (Be sure to check Saturday and Sundays for special postings (poems, stories, etc. -hopefully on a regular basis)

  • The Gift of God's Grace - Unfolded through God's Revealed Truth - Thursday, November 30th

    But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel,” which translated means, “God with us.” And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife. Matthew 1:20-24

    Forever, O LORD, Your word is settled in heaven …. The sum of Your word is truth, and every one of Your righteous ordinances is everlasting. Psalm 119:89, 160

    For you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God. For, “All flesh is like grass, and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls off, but the word of the Lord endures forever.” And this is the word which was preached to you. 1 Peter 1:23-25

    Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away. Matthew 24:35

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    Our faith is a reasonable faith, but the bottom line is not what is reasonable, but what is revealed. Christianity is a revealed faith and while always reasonable in the end, it may not always seem reasonable to us. If you had been Joseph what would your thoughts have been if an angel told you that the only explanation previously known to all of mankind for Mary being pregnant was not the case and that it was actually the result of the Holy Spirit. You would not have thought it to be a reasonable explanation. Would we have believed anyway and responded as instructed? In regard to the Scriptures, how easy it is for us to believe what seems reasonable and to set aside what does not seem reasonable. Joseph believed and did exactly as he had been commanded by the angel of Lord. When we have a Bible in our hands, we have the eternal, flawless, and living word of God in our hands and we must be careful to believe and be obedient to it in its entirety. If we find the Scriptures to be beyond reason in places, trust God for it. He will either make them clearer further along in our lives or someday in glory we will see how wonderfully reasonable the revealed word of God truly is at every point.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, thank you for revealing truth to us. What a treasure it is to have your Word in our hands. Help me to be like Joseph in how I respond to what you make known to me. Forgive me for all the times I set aside something from your Word because I was trusting more in my own reasonable thinking than in your revealed truth. What an amazing thing the supernatural birth of Jesus is. A baby in Mary’s womb conceived by the Holy Spirit is not reasonable. Nor is God in the flesh reasonable. It is amazing; it is revealed; it is the gift of grace poured out. Hallelujah! Amen!

  • The Gift of God's Grace - Extended through a Spirit of Generosity - Wednesday, November 29th

    And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly. Matthew 1:19

    From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day. Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You.” But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God's interests, but man's.” Matthew 16:21-23

    Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. Romans 5:1-2

    In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Acts 20:35

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    In the supreme act of grace our heavenly Father gave us the gift of His Son. Although misdirected, Joseph was willing to extend grace to Mary. Joseph was trying to do something for Mary in order to spare her and Peter was trying to do something for Jesus in order to spare Him. Gracious dealings for others but both in opposition with the outworking of God’s bestowal of grace on mankind through the birth and sacrifice of His Son, Jesus. The provision of God’s grace was completed and we have become partakers of that grace through faith in Christ and now we stand in that grace. As ones who stand in grace we have the privilege of extending grace to others. Christmas is all about giving. When we fail to extend grace to others, we are not living in the reality of the grace in which we stand. It is truly more blessed to give than to receive.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, this time of year seems to foster a spirit of generosity quite naturally. While I enjoy this and like entering into to it as well, I see that true spiritual generosity is so much more. Please permeate my heart and mind with a deep consciousness of your amazing grace in which I stand. May your grace be so alive in me that it easily bubbles up and overflows from my life to the people around me. Help me to be fully aligned with you so that I am totally in tune with the true redemptive needs of others. Amen!

  • The Gift of God's Grace - Launched by the Most High God - Tuesday, November 28th

    Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. Matthew 1:18

    The angel answered and said to her (Mary), "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God. Luke 1:35

    For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. John 3:16

    “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways”, declares the LORD. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    With the pregnancy of Mary, Joseph’s world is turned upside down. His understanding of what has happened is far removed from the reality of what has happened. Yes she is pregnant, but “how” and “why” she is pregnant are beyond discovery, it must be revealed. And that is exactly what God does – He reveals to Joseph and Mary and to us what we otherwise could not know. It has been said that Jesus had to be born of a virgin in order for him to be sinless. It is true that creatures reproduce after their own kind. Dogs produce dogs, cats produce cats, and people produce people. And of course people are sinful, so they produce sinful people. 

    Even though all this is true, Jesus was not born of a virgin in order to not be sinful. Jesus was born of a virgin in order to be Jesus. Yes, Mary plus Joseph will always equal a sinful person, but it will always be a different person than Jesus. While the conception of Jesus is a great mystery, one thing we do understand is that it was accomplished through the power of the Most High. So, Mary plus the Most High equals Jesus and thus we have the uniquely begotten Son of God. Of course, it is the only begotten Son of God alone who can take away the sin of the world. How often what we think is taking place is not what is happening at all.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, no doubt about it. Your ways and your thoughts are so much higher than ours. Thank you for what took place and thank you for revealing how you became God in the flesh, our Savior and Redeemer. I am so grateful that I am a beneficiary of your redemptive provision. Your presence in my life makes all the difference. Thank you for showing me the way in a life full of transforming happenings that I would otherwise not recognize, understand, or embrace. Amen!

  • The Gift of God's Grace - Symbolized through Unique Trees - Monday, November 27th

    Although He (Jesus Christ) existed in the form of God, (He) did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Philippine 2:6-8

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    There are numerous explanations for how a tree became an important part of celebrating Christmas. Regardless of how it came about, the Christmas tree has become a symbol of the birth of Jesus Christ that helps us celebrate the fact that He came. The Philippians passage wonderfully connects the birth of Jesus with His death on the cross. The cross is often referred to as a “tree.” And so we have a tree associated with his birth by tradition and the tree of the cross that was instrumental to His fulfilling in His death the reason he came in the first place. There is another Christmas tree that many people recall at Christmas time – the “Charlie Brown Christmas tree” – a tree that represents all that is less than we would like it to be; things that are weak, broken, or disappointing – but at the same time are more than we see them to be at first if we are willing to try a different perspective. Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree would have fit right in with the humble conditions of Christ’s birth. With the correct perspective our beautiful Christmas trees become a fitting symbol of our beautiful Savior who transformed the “lowliness” of His birth and the “ugliness” of His death with “beauty” beyond measure through the gift of his grace.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, I am grasping even more the depth and extent of all the birth and death of Christ encompasses. The images of the trees really helps. All you put into your plan of redemption, all you did to accomplish it, and all you are doing to implement it in the lives of so many is truly amazing. Thanks for bringing your gift of grace to me. I am amazed at how you consistently transform my not so beautiful life with the beauty of your grace. Amen!

  • Special post for Saturday, November 25th - "White Envelope" Story

    “For the Man Who Hated Christmas.”

    “It was just a small, white envelope stuck among the branches of our Christmas tree. No name, no identification, no inscription. It has peeked through the branches of our tree for the past ten years.

    “It all began because my husband, Mike, hated Christmas. Oh, not the true meaning of Christmas, but the commercial aspects of it – overspending and the frantic running around at the last minute to get a tie for Uncle Harry and the dusting powder for Grandma; gifts given in desperation because you couldn’t think of anything else.

    “Knowing he felt this way, I decided one year to bypass the usual shirts, sweaters, ties and so forth. I reached for something special just for Mike. The inspiration came in an unusual way.

    “Our son, Kevin, who was 12 that year, was on the wrestling team at the school he attended. Shortly before Christmas, there was a non-league match against a team sponsored by an inner-city church. These youngsters, dressed in sneakers so ragged that shoestrings seemed to be the only thing holding them together, presented a sharp contrast to our boys in their spiffy red and black uniforms and sparking new wrestling shoes.

    “As the match began, I was alarmed to see that the other team was wrestling without headgear, a kind of light helmet designed to protect a wrestler’s ears. It was a luxury the opposing team obviously could not afford.

    “Well, we ended up walloping them. We took every weight class. Mike, seated next to me, shook his head sadly, “I wish just one of them could have won,” he said. “They have lots of potential, but losing like this could take the heart right out of them.”

    “Mike loved kids – all kids. He so enjoyed coaching little league football, baseball and lacrosse. That’s when the idea for his present came.

    “That afternoon, I went to a local sporting goods store and bought an assortment of wrestling headgear and shoes and sent them anonymously to the inner-city church. On Christmas Eve, I placed a small white envelope on the tree, the note inside telling Mike what I had done, and this was his gift from me.

    “Mike’s smile was the brightest thing about Christmas that year. And that same bright smile lit up succeeding years. For each Christmas, I followed the tradition — one year sending a group of mentally handicapped youngsters to a hockey game, another year a check to a pair of elderly brothers whose home had burned to the ground the week before Christmas, and so on.

    “The white envelope became the highlight of our Christmas. It was always the last thing opened on Christmas morning, and our children — ignoring their new toys — would stand with wide-eyed anticipation as their dad lifted the envelope from the tree to reveal its contents.

    “The story doesn’t end there. You see, we lost Mike last year due to dreaded cancer. When Christmas rolled around, I was wrapped in grief. But Christmas Eve found me placing an envelope on the tree. And the next morning, I found it was magically joined by three more. Unbeknownst to the others, each of our three children for the first time placed a white envelope on the tree for their dad. It looks like this family tradition will continue.”

  • Faithful Servants - Seeking to Please and Glorify the Lord - Friday, November 24th

    Thus says the LORD of hosts, “Consider your ways! Go up to the mountains, bring wood and rebuild the temple, that I may be pleased with it and be glorified,” says the LORD. “You look for much, but behold, it comes to little; when you bring it home, I blow it away. Why?” declares the LORD of hosts, “Because of My house which lies desolate, while each of you runs to his own house.” Haggai 1:7-9

    So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit. Ephesians 2:19-22

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    Seeing ourselves accurately is no small task. It is hard to see what really makes us tick; what it is that really prevails in our lives. It is not a matter of what we think should prevail or what we want to prevail, but what does prevail. Building God’s house should prevail. God’s house today is different than in Old Testament times when it referred to the physical temple in Jerusalem. Now we are God’s spiritual temples as he lives in us through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. We help to reach people for Christ who become joined to God’s household (the body of Christ, his church). We then do our part to help everyone fit together as individual temples of God’s Spirit.

    As we fit together, we grow into a collective holy temple of the Lord who are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit (not a church building). When we truly put God’s kingdom first, participating in building God’s house will prevail. This will happen when our love for God and our love for others is prevailing in our lives. A commitment to humbly serve God and others with genuine love is the call of the moment and when we respond to God’s call, it will mean doing our part to build His house. This is what pleases and glorifies the Lord. This what faithful servants do.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, I want to please and glorify you as your faithful servant. Teach me how to participate as fully as possible in building your house. Help me to humbly and lovingly serve you and others in this way. Forgive me for all the times I have tended to my own house and not yours. I devote myself to serving you, your kingdom, the lost, and your people. May you truly be pleased and glorified. Amen!

  • Faithful Servants - Motivated by Pure Love to Serve - Thursday, November 23rd

    They couldn’t bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, so they dug a hole through the roof above his head. Then they lowered the man on his mat, right down in front of Jesus. Mark 2:4

    Jesus replied, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments. Matthew 22:37-40Therefore, if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Philippines 2:1-2

    Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality. Romans 12:9-13

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    There is not a shred of evidence in our story that would suggest there was anything self-serving in what the four men were doing for their friend. It is clear that the pure and simple motive of love and compassion for their friend was the sole basis for their actions in the story. It is our love for God that should motivate us to serve Him and it is our love for others that should motivate us to serve them. Here is another co-reality: the more we love and serve God, the more we will love and serve others. The more we love and serve others, the more we will love and serve God. Our love all the way around must be genuine. There is no room for hypocrisy in the work of God’s kingdom.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Happy Thanksgiving! For today’s prayer response we have a Moravian Blessing. Following this are a Thanksgiving Scripture and poem.

    “Come Lord Jesus, our guest to be and bless these gifts bestowed by thee. And bless our loved ones everywhere, and keep them in your loving care.” – Moravian Blessing

    Psalm 100

    A Psalm for Thanksgiving.

    Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth.
    Serve the Lord with gladness;
    Come before Him with joyful singing.
    Know that the Lord Himself is God;
    It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves;
    We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.

    Enter His gates with thanksgiving
    And His courts with praise.
    Give thanks to Him, bless His name.
    For the Lord is good;
    His lovingkindness is everlasting
    And His faithfulness to all generations.

    Savior of my Soul
    by Deborah Ann Belka

    Lord of my life,
    Savior of my soul
    You filled in my heart
    the big gaping hole.

    I was broken,
    crushed and down
    then You came along
    and turned me around.

    You brought me hope,
    gave me a reason to live
    better than that . . .
    my sins ~ You forgive.

    Now I have peace,
    eternal rest I will know
    every day in my heart
    I can feel Your love grow.

    Lord of my life,
    Savior of my soul
    You filled me with grace
    and now I am whole!

  • Faithful Servants - Keeping the Focus on Jesus Christ - Wednesday, November 22nd

    They couldn’t bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, so they dug a hole through the roof above his head. Then they lowered the man on his mat, right down in front of Jesus. Mark 2:4

    But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you. James 4:6-10

    Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Philippines 2:3-8

    Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Romans 12:16

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    Ministry is all about serving others and being used to help them connect with Jesus who meets their needs. It is not about us; it is about them and Jesus and the wonders that result. We might be used to meet intermediate needs, but the goal is always for others to connect directly with Jesus. Whatever intermediate need we meet, it is simply a cup of water given in Jesus’ name. We need to be like John the Baptist who said, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” Once the mat was lowered, all eyes were on Jesus. It would be a stretch to think that after Jesus forgave the paralyzed man’s sins and healed him, there was any bravado coming from his four friends about them having been the ones who “lowered the mat.” They acted in humility and willing stood back and watched Jesus do His wonders.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, I lift you up and exalt your name as I worship you and express to you my love and devotion. Help me to look to you in the middle of everything that this day holds. May it be evident to all that I am yielding to you, depending on you, and trusting in you. May I truly serve you today by serving others. May it be that my life actually helps others connect with you for the meeting of their true needs. In my dealings with people today may I be humble, not needy, and totally caught up in what you are accomplishing. Truly, you must increase and I must decrease. Amen!

  • Faithful Servants - Persisting at Bringing Others to Christ - Tuesday, November 21st

    When Jesus returned to Capernaum several days later, the news spread quickly that he was back home. Soon the house where he was staying was so packed with visitors that there was no more room, even outside the door. While he was preaching God’s word to them, four men arrived carrying a paralyzed man on a mat. They couldn’t bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, so they dug a hole through the roof above his head. Then they lowered the man on his mat, right down in front of Jesus. Mark 2:1-4

    But, beloved, we are convinced of better things concerning you, and things that accompany salvation, though we are speaking in this way. For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints. And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you will not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. Hebrews 6:9-12

    But remember the former days, when, after being enlightened, you endured a great conflict of sufferings, partly by being made a public spectacle through reproaches and tribulations, and partly by becoming sharers with those who were so treated. For you showed sympathy to the prisoners and accepted joyfully the seizure of your property, knowing that you have for yourselves a better possession and a lasting one. Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised. Hebrews 10:32-36

    By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward. By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured, as seeing Him who is unseen. Hebrews 11:24-27

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    The four friends of the man on the mat were not easily dissuaded from their objective of bringing their friend before Jesus. The hole in the roof can remain as an image in our minds to help us persevere and not give up at being ones who help others come to Jesus for the touch from Him that is needed. How readily we are diverted by other concerns that consume our lives. God has called us to live in community and to help each other get close to Jesus and stay close to Him. The believers in the book of Hebrews struggled with staying committed to all that God had called them to in this regard. Like them we are encouraged to stick with it and not let anything get in the way of helping others come before Jesus, even if it means enduring suffering and mistreatment.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, what an amazing provision it is to come before you. No matter who we are, we need the touch that comes from you when we are in your presence. Thank you for those people who helped me come to you for the gift of salvation. Thank you for those who help me come to you for your ongoing touch of grace in my life. I am sorry that far too often I allow myself to get deterred from helping people come to you for the grace they need. I vow to be a faithful servant who persists at bringing others to you. Amen!

  • Faithful Servants - Dominated by the Kingdom and Not Things - Monday, November 20th

    But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Matthew 6:33

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    This statement of Jesus was said in the context of a lesson he gave on “Worry.” Just after saying to His hearers that one cannot serve God and wealth, he tells them that they should not be worried about their lives. When we are preoccupied with such physical concerns as food, drink, clothing, etc., we are serving wealth. Jesus points out that our Heavenly Father knows we have need of such things and that they will be added to us if we seek His kingdom and His righteousness first and are thus preoccupied with serving Him. How easily wealth and the physical things of life that wealth provides dominate our lives. Speaking of himself and his fellow believers the apostle Paul declared, “the love of Christ controls us.” He was saying that Christ’s love for them and their love for Christ dominated them. We must be dominated by the love of Christ and not the things of this world. When we are, we will be true servants of God who readily spread the love of Christ in faithful service to Him and His kingdom. This is the focus of this week’s Devotionals.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, It’s so hard to properly blend spiritual life with physical life. I am tired of material things being too prominent in my life. Show me how get things right. I choose to become a faithful servant whose life is dominated by your kingdom and not material things. Lord, I love you, worship you, and surrender to you. Amen!

  • A Genuine Spiritual Legacy - Advancing Hope, Joy, and Glory as God's Agents - Friday, November 17th

    For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith toward God has gone forth, so that we have no need to say anything …. For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe. For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea ….  For who is our hope or joy or crown of exultation? Is it not even you, in the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming?  For you are our glory and joy. 1 Thessalonians 1:8, 2:13-14A, 19-20

    Today's thoughts from today's verses:

    We have the opportunity to touch our world in ways that are both similar to and distinct from other points in history. The gospel never changes and thus the similarity of our opportunity. But the conditions and needs of our world today are unique and thus the distinctiveness of the opportunity before us. Breaking down unnecessary limitations, “seeing” others through the eyes of our Heavenly Father, embracing people and their needs in the midst of the conditions of our times, bestowing genuine love and compassion, and communicating the true message of the Gospel, will allow us to leave behind a legacy where the impact of the gospel through us “lives on” as we advance hope and joy and the glory to God.

    Today's prayer response from today's thoughts:

    Lord, thank you for your Word and the work it is performing in me. My life is being transformed so that more and more I am living for you and not myself. I am getting more of a handle on what it means for me to be an agent of the Gospel so that I am sharing my faith with others. Please continue to help me connect with other people no matter who they are and no matter what conditions encompass their lives. Living for you is all about hope, joy, your glory. I know that as you use me to advance hope, joy, and your glory in the lives of others, I will someday leave behind a genuine spiritual legacy. Amen!

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