Friday, December 31, 2010

An 11-Month Bible Study Journey

Starting tomorrow I'm going to correct a serious problem in my life, one day at a time. I'm ashamed to say that my Bible reading isn't what God expects from me. It's my earnest desire to spend more time delving into His Word and learning what He would have me be as a Christian and a woman.

These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so. Acts 17:11

Are we willing to schedule time each and every day to study and search the Scriptures? It's not just another chore to check off our to-do list, but a real opportunity to meet God face to face in His Word. The answers to our questions and our prayers are written right in front of us, and it's our responsibility and great joy to find them.

The other key to this verse is "all readiness of mind." If we're open to the miracles God can work in our lives through Bible reading time, anything is possible. Reading Scripture is such a supplement to prayer: we speak to God through prayer and He answers us in what we read. Having only half the conversation means only half of the relationship, and that is a sorry state of affairs.

Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15

How do we expect to be good witnesses for the Lord if we don't have all the information we need? Bible reading and study are essential for growing in knowledge and understanding why we believe what we believe. We can be used so much more effectively if we're immersed in His Word every day.

So beginning tomorrow morning, our daily devotion here will begin in the first chapter of Genesis. Each day there will be 3-4 chapters of Scripture to read and a devotion from somewhere within those verses. On November 30 we will have read through the entire Bible together and learned wonderful new things from God's own mouth.

If you've already read through the Bible, please pray that the Lord will give you excitement to do it again. His Bible is the Living Word, always changing and growing to give us exactly what we need for the moment. Each time through is a new adventure in becoming the woman He would have us to be.

If you've never read through the entire Bible, prepare for the journey of a lifetime. The Lord will show you people, stories and commandments you never knew existed. You will see joy, sorrow, faith and salvation in whole new ways. Pray that God will open your mind to the possibilities learning about Him can bring.

I'll see you in the morning.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

A Life Of Faithfulness

What's the best gift you can give back to the Lord? Your faithfulness.

I don't mean gift as in, God should feel honored that I decided to be faithful. I mean gift as in, we have been blessed more than we deserve and our faithfulness is all we have to give in return.

Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) Hebrews 10:23

God has been far more faithful to us than we could ever hope to be faithful to Him. He has provided everything we've ever needed and many of the desires of our hearts. He has answered when we called. He has simply been there when no one else was. The Lord has followed through on every promise ever made and our faith leads us to believe He will continue to do so throughout eternity.

And how often is our response one of doubt, laziness, stubbornness or guilt? Instead of clinging to our Heavenly Father and refusing to let go, we stray, argue, misunderstand and take others with us. All He asks is our faithfulness.

If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself. 2 Timothy 2:13

We may fail and come short of God's standard of faithfulness, but He will remain perfect. His presence will never leave us. His blessing will never run dry. His salvation will never come to an end. Regardless of what we do, say or think, the Lord will never leave us nor forsake us. His faithfulness will stand the test of time.

So how can we show our faithfulness to the Creator of life?

* Be faithful in our Bible reading.
* Be faithful in our prayer time.
* Be faithful in our church attendance.
* Be faithful in our fellowship with other believers.
* Be faithful in our witnessing.
* Be faithful in our daily service to God.

And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry; Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all. Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen. 1 Timothy 1:12-17

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Wishing You Balance And Moderation

On Saturday (or Monday if you're already procrastinating), many people around the world will make New Year's resolutions. They will decide this is the time to overhaul their eating, weight, home and life in drastic ways. It may last until this time next year, but chances are these off-the-wall decisions won't make it a week, let alone a month.

We should desire to make positive changes in our lives, and improve ourselves according to the Lord's standards. Any move in that direction is beneficial to ourselves and our families, but not the resolutions that we can't stick with more than a few days.

Losing an obscene amount of weight in a short period of time or exercising every day for all of 2011 is a resolution waiting to be tossed aside. At the very first sign of struggle or the first time we don't follow through with our self-imposed rules, we give up and wait until next January to try again. This vicious cycle is self-destructive and not the way God intended us to grow and develop.

You don't have to turn everything upside down to make positive changes in your life. Instead of being unrealistic this January 1, let's make smaller goals that actually make sense in the grand scheme of things! How about:

* Choose two or three goals that you want to accomplish in the upcoming year. Too many irons in the fire will overwhelm and create guilt if they're not accomplished.

* Break each goal down into bite-sized pieces. Don't say, I'd like to clean the entire house out this year. Say, This week I will tackle the dining room. When that's done I will move on. This makes those goals seem real and manageable, not something said for the sake of saying it.

* Set goals that fall in line with God's plan for your life. His focus for you may simply be a dedicated Bible time every morning, not losing weight right now. You'll never accomplish self-made changes in your life if the Lord is directing your decisions.

* Be flexible! If you choose to start an exercise program and happen to miss a day or two, you may need to change routines. Maybe jogging doesn't fit your schedule but you'd be more than happy to stop by a yoga class twice a week while you're out and about. Just because your first plan doesn't work out doesn't mean you're not meant to follow through.

* Pray for motivation. Pray for stamina. Pray for dedication. Pray for courage when the going gets tough. If this is God's path for you right now, He will give you all you need to make those positive goals in your life.

Stay balanced and positive. Keep the forward momentum and take on your goals in moderation. Build your prayer life and enjoy where the Lord leads you in the upcoming year.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A Time Capsule For 2010

In just a few days 2010 will be a memory and we'll have new goals and plans for 2011. Before the calendar page flips, why don't we take a moment to remember all of God's blessings during the past year. All right, that might take longer than a moment, but what you'll see is more than worth the time.

To make my remembrance walk last until this time next year, I'm using a small notebook to jot down my thoughts, recollections and some mementos from these past 12 months. You can make a similar scrapbook or you might want to use a jar or box to hold some precious memories.

So...what to include in your time capsule?

* How did you begin the year? A party? With family? At home or work?
* Think back on last winter. Pull out your calendar and make some notes about major events from the first part of the year. Work your way through the seasons, marking those special days God blessed you with.
* Print out some pictures that highlight the activities of the year. Tape them into your book, label the people and explain why this particular moment was so special.
* If you're a crafter, turn this book into a keepsake with paper, stickers and drawings throughout. These are special memories, so make sure you use your own handwriting.
* Precious loved ones may have passed during the last 12 months. Give each one a page of their own filled with your thoughts and memories.
* Add in some Bible verses you found particularly meaningful this year. Did you do a Bible study on a specific topic or person? Write about it.
* Take note of the major milestones like starting a business, new children or grandchildren, birthdays and anniversaries. They only happen once and we will never meet this way again.

Put as much time into this project as you want, and then tuck it away somewhere special. Don't hide it so you won't find it again next December, because you'll want to look back as you make your new time capsule. It's amazing the blessings we forget when we're busy receiving new ones. Create a piece that will stir your own heart and touch the lives of others. That's what time serving the Lord is all about.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Kinda Homesick

Celebrating Christmas far away from family can create some serious homesickness. Being on the east coast while my family is in the Midwest gives me incredible empathy for our missionaries serving on foreign fields. It's difficult to be separated, whether by a few miles or half a continent.

But lately I've been even more homesick for Heaven than Iowa. (Yes, there's a movie reference there.) The old song speaks of longing for a country you've never seen, but you're still desperate to be there. I've never met my God face to face, but part of me already knows the joy that exists in His presence. To have that intimate communion for all eternity is a precious gift that we get impatient for.

Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord: (For we walk by faith, not by sight:) We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord. Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him. 2 Corinthians 5:6-9

Am I ready to go? Oh yes! Am I ready to go today? The flesh says no, but the spirit says yes! Whenever my Lord calls me home, I'm ready to go be in His presence. Hearing the complete Gospel story told at Christmas makes the waiting difficult, but also makes the anticipation greater.

The more time we spend on earth serving God, the sweeter the joy of Heaven will be. For saved Christian women, there can be joy in both places, finding balance between being a handmaid of the Lord and seeing that place Jesus promised He went to prepare. Two kinds of joy - our hearts should be overflowing today!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Christmas Glow Continues

The space under the tree is empty and the presents are unwrapped. The food prepared yesterday is now leftovers packed up in the fridge. Company will soon be leaving and life will get back to normal.

But what will the next days hold for a Christian woman who just celebrated the birth of her Savior?

Does getting life back to normal mean that we lose the joy that this wonderful Christmas day brought? Do we return to complacency or do we surge forward with praise on our lips?

The choice is ultimately each individual woman's. I'm looking forward to my everyday routine starting tomorrow, but not the laziness I felt before this week. Setting aside the things of God like Bible study, journaling and prayer time is pure laziness, because we allow the things of the world to come before that precious time with the Lord.

Have you felt a resurgence of peace this week? Christ's birth revives our souls because we're reminded of our past, present and future relationship with Him. Do we take that fellowship on to the next stage this coming week, or do we allow ourselves to settle back in to what's comfortable and familiar?

Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13-14

Are we ready to grow with God, to listen more carefully, be more aware of His leading as we walk down His path for us? Christmas gives us a beautiful jolt of emotion, but faith keeps us going when it's simply January again. It's not easy to maintain any relationship, especially one with the Lord, But the enrichment of our lives is when we have the stamina to overcome whatever hurdles will come along, trying to get us down and tear us away from God.

It's the joy of Christmas that reminds us of why we believe. It's the truth of Jesus' birth that leads us from now until Easter. It's the power of His death, burial and Resurrection that builds our faith. And it's His promised return that makes our daily walk worth every mile.

Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. 1 Corinthians 9:24-25

Go on from this Christmas with joy. Continue your walk with confidence in the Lord. Press on with faith and peace. The in-dwelling Holy Spirit will remind us of the Lord's birth and strengthen us until His return!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Birthday of The King

Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily. But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. Matthew 1:18-24

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them. Luke 2:1-20

Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet, And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel. Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also.

When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh. And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way. Matthew 2:1-12

Friday, December 24, 2010

1 Day Until Christmas

It's finally Christmas Eve! Just one more day and we'll celebrate the birth of our Savior! What glorious anticipation!

I'm sure your home is busy today preparing meals, wrapping gifts and attending evening services. In the midst of the hustle and bustle, I pray you'll take a few minutes alone with the Lord. Choose one of the following ideas and get charged up for the weekend with God's Word.

* Read Isaiah 9:6. Which name of Jesus Christ means the most in your life today?

* Read Matthew 2:1-12. What personal gifts does Jesus desire from us now?

* Read Luke 1:26-38. Meditate on what have been going through Mary's mind this day before her child's, and her Savior's, birth.

* Read Luke 2:8-14. Listen to "Hark The Herald Angels Sing."

* Read John 1:1-16. Light a candle and praise the Lord for sending us the Light of the World!

I pray you will enjoy this beautiful Christmas Eve and rest in the peace of Jesus Christ. Nothing else we have planned for today is more important than our focus on the Lord.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

2 Days Until Christmas

When the weekend has come and gone, what will you remember about your Christmas celebration?

Will it be the joy of Christ's birth or the headache of Christmas shopping?

Will it be the warmth of family by the fireplace or getting into a cold car every morning?

Will it be the peace of enjoying the still, cold, evening air or the anxiety of having a clean home, prepared meal and purchased presents?

Will it be the hope of the Savior's arrival or the disappointment of those who can't be with you?

Will it be the love of family around the dinner table or rushing to get the meal prepared?

Will it be the fun of Christian fellowship with believers of like faith or dealing with everybody pushing and shoving through the mall?

It's all about perspective, and I pray that with our eyes on Christ our perspective will be clear. I would hate to reach the end of the Christmas season and realize that I had been so focused on the negative that I had neglected all the positives.

The struggles of the world can be put on hold for a few days while we allow the peace and calm of the Savior's birth to penetrate our souls. No gift, party or show can outshine the beauty of the true meaning of Christmas. Let's all keep our eyes open for the joys of the season, the precious loved ones around us and the truth of God's Word.

What will you remember come Monday?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

3 Days Until Christmas

Guess how many people you will interact with between now and the end of Christmas Day. 10? 25? 50? 100? More? Each and every person you speak to, pass by, help and serve is a soul loved by the Lord. It may not be so apparent when we're all hurried, frazzled and snippy, but our words and actions all have a tremendous impact on how others perceive the birth of our Savior.

Even strangers can tell if you are a Christian - without you ever saying a word. The week is passing by with great speed, but will you take the time to smile at the checkout lady? Will you ask her how she is today? Will leave her with a "Merry Christmas" or are you so caught up in your to-do list that you don't even give her a passing thought? You may be the only Gospel she receives today, and wouldn't that be a wonderful Christmas gift?

The police in our area have reminded us that there will be many travelers passing through town over the next few days. They don't know the roads the way we do, where the exits are and how fast you can (or should) go in each stretch of highway. What a gift of safety we can give by slowing down, driving with extra caution and concern, showing common courtesy to those around us and obeying basic traffic laws. It may seem like a little thing, but preventing accidents, injuries and death is a beautiful gift.

Will your house be filled with people this week? If we remember that we're all sinners saved by grace, then squabbles and personal issues can be set aside. If there are lost people in your home, don't force the Gospel down their throats, but show them with your kind words and loving actions that God rules your heart. The reason we're gathered together in the first place is to celebrate the birthday of the King, and all the love, blessings and praise that come with that are so eternally precious. These make lovely gifts to share with our loved ones on Christmas.

And what about after Christmas Day is over? Will everything go back to normal or are you determined to keep the gracious love of Jesus Christ in your heart? Can you invite those friends and family staying with you to church on Sunday morning? Are there opportunities to hand out tracts and witness? The gift of salvation and sharing the love of God is the most precious gift of all, and it doesn't even have to be wrapped. It's just that special way to interact with people every day and let Jesus be reflected through you.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

4 Days Until Christmas

Do you have your menu for Christmas meals ready? Are you prepared to go grocery shopping? Is everything pulled out to decorate the table?

We put so much time and effort into preparing the dining table for holiday meals. Christmas may be the only time each year that we're surrounded by so many loved ones, so this is an important centerpiece of the day.

Once the linens have been spread, the flowers and candles are in place and the dinnerware is laid out, the people take their seats. Whether there are two of you or a table-full of family and friends, Christmas is complete around the edge of the table. Grace is spoken and God rests His hand on each in attendance.

Jesus saith unto them, Come and dine. And none of the disciples durst ask him, Who art thou? knowing that it was the Lord. John 21:12

Everything on your table this Christmas is a precious gift from God. He has provided in ways no one else can. The food, decorations, plates and trappings of the day are all supplied by a loving, gracious Heavenly Father with great desires for us. He is pleased when we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, when we gather together as a family and when we join at the table together.

Jesus invited His disciples back to the table after His resurrection. He had prepared breakfast on the beach for them, showing such love and compassion to His followers, even when they weren't so faithful. The table that morning was a expression of forgiveness, encouragement and renewal for men who were broken and far from God's side.

That's exactly what our meal will provide to those who gather around it this weekend. The table should be a place to be fed both physically and spiritually. It's a place of love, peace and strength for those who are saved by the grace of God. For the lost, it's a chance to hear the Gospel one more time - perhaps with words, but more importantly by the way we speak, interact and serve.

While it may seem like just another event in the holiday schedule, the Christmas dining table is so much more than that. As we gather around it, make the table a shining example of Christ's love, especially to celebrate His birthday.

Monday, December 20, 2010

5 Days Until Christmas

This Christmas season, we need prayer more than ever. Illness, depression, conflict, death and other personal concerns are threatening to steal our joy. In less than a week we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior, but prayer is necessary at this very moment. Will you pray with me?

Pray for:
* the peace of Jerusalem
* peace for our soldiers around the world
* peace in the hearts of Christian women everywhere
* peace that begins in our homes and spreads
* peace among our loved ones

Pray for:
* a renewed sense of joy in our churches
* personal joy that will stir the soul
* joy that will change the attitudes of tired, cranky people
* God's joy in overflowing abundance

Pray for:
* a burden for lost souls
* a burden for the young people in our lives
* a burden for the sick, elderly and shut-ins
* a burden to bring new people to the house of God

Pray for:
* those in authority over you
* those in submission to you
* those you see every day
* those you rarely get to see
* those you love
* those you would like to get to know

Pray for:
* a church in one accord
* a family in one accord
* a workplace in one accord
* a community in one accord

Prayer works, and it can work miracles at the exact moment you need them. Strengthen your prayer life during this Advent season and watch the multitude of ways God will bless every aspect of your life.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

6 Days Until Christmas

Can you even begin to imagine what that first Christmas carol must have sounded like?

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. Luke 2:13-14

With those glorious words in their hearts, the shepherds hurried off to find the babe, wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. Perhaps, with joy and hope of hearing the Christ child had arrived, they were singing along the way.

Paul wrote to the Ephesians that they were to be filled with the Holy Spirit: Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Ephesians 5:19-20

What better time is there to make melody in your heart than at Christmas? The joy and anticipation of the birth of our Savior creates a feeling that can only be expressed in song.

And not the ones you've heard at the mall for the past three months. Yes, I heard many "Christmas" songs well before Thanksgiving. But tunes about Santa and presents and trees don't cut it for the Christian woman. We want to remember the Lord, His birth and His plan for life, not reindeer and sleighs. Christmas music should direct our thoughts to Jesus and the promises made about His birth.

So turn up the Christmas music this week - sing songs of praise and thanksgiving for the soon-coming Lord. Shed tears over the beauty of His appearing. Rejoice with shepherds and wise men as they travel to see the new baby. Find hope and comfort in the birthday of the King.

True, glorifying Christmas music will uplift and carry you through the season of Advent. Find God's Word in every song you hear and it will strengthen your faith. Look for His purity and love in the music and lyrics and you'll discover a deeper meaning to the Christmas season.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

7 Days Until Christmas

In just a week we will celebrate the birth of the Christ child. We rejoice in the new life, the hope of His coming and the gift of salvation. The birthday of the King rejuvenates our love and faith in beautiful miracles.

Now let's fast-forward to a later chapter of the story. That tiny baby has grown up and is now the focus of hateful and evil men. He has been arrested, tortured and hung on the cross to die a humiliating death. He is mocked, scorned and hated from every side.

That's not the Christmas story...that's the Easter story! We don't want to think about the ugly and the brutal and the sin. Advent is about expectations and renewal. Christmas is about birth and life and joy. Thinking about Jesus' death doesn't fit into that pretty, pure picture.

But the end of the story makes us treasure the beginning of the story so much more. The Son of God was willing to give all just for me. He left His throne in Heaven for you. He gave every drop of blood He had for the hateful, sinful, angry, bitter people who crucified Him. And He gave of Himself for every person who would ever be born.

Without the cross, the manger is just a feeding trough. Without the cross, the angels just came to sing a pretty song. Without the cross, the wise men were just passing through. Without the cross, the shepherds had nothing to praise God for. And without the cross, there is no anticipation because there's no joyful climax to the story.

We can celebrate babies, snowflakes and presents all Advent season, but without the cross at the center of our celebration, we're missing the point. Jesus Christ came to earth more than 2000 years ago to die on the cross. He taught, healed and loved along His journey, but the cross was always His focus. He came to take on the sins of the world so that we could believe and have eternal life.
And that is why Christmas should be such a festive holiday. That baby in the manger became the Savior of the world by going to the cross, dying and resurrecting. Praise be to God! That's something worth celebrating!

Friday, December 17, 2010

8 Days Until Christmas

Over the past several days I've been scared to death by other drivers driving while talking or texting on their phones.

The man behind me in the grocery line yesterday informed someone very loudly through his hands-free device that he was waiting patiently at the grocery store. Then he changed lines so he could get done faster.

The woman in front of me at a different check out lane in another store was so consumed with her phone call that she didn't even hang up to interact with the clerk.

Technology is the quickest joy-destroyer there is. Yes, I use it daily and appreciate that I can communicate, work and entertain myself with it. It is a blessing in many ways, but in addition to connecting us with the world it is alienating us from the world around us.

This Advent season is a time to draw closer to one another and to the Lord. How can we do that with a computer in our lap? Can you really have quality time with family when the cell phone vibrates every other minute? Is it quality Bible reading time if the television is on, too?

On a scale of 1 to 10, how much have you enjoyed the Christmas season thus far? Do you remember what you've done over the past couple of weeks? Do you have to check your social media postings or your phone call record to jog your memory? If so, an unplugging is in order!

* Put down your phone, and maybe even turn it off for an evening.
* Turn off the television and take the family on a tour of Christmas lights.
* Build a fire in the fireplace and read the Christmas story from the Bible.
* Designate two times a day for checking e-mail, not every five minutes.
* Resist the urge to update your online status every time you breathe.

Technology has its place, but Christmas is the exception to our dependency. We will never meet this way again, and each moment should be precious and treasured. A year from now there will be different people in our lives and some loved ones may not be with us. This precise second in time cannot be duplicated or reproduced - and it will be missed if our eyes are blinded by things you can plug in.

I pray we will all spend the next 8 days focused on actual flesh-and-blood people and set aside finding out everything that's going on out in the world. Connecting with loved ones is the special part of the Christmas season, but let's do it in a more personal way. Unplugged.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

9 Days Until Christmas

The rush has ended momentarily. After a very busy few weeks I find myself with a whole day to myself. No Christmas parties, no planning, no deadlines and no errands. I can finally catch up on some writing projects, our etsy shop and the slightly neglected housework.

And then I realize...I am empty. I've given and written and crafted and sent and spoken and...I'm empty. My energy is drained and I think I'm coming down with a cold. The desire is still there, but I've run out of motivation. In a word, I'm human.

It is at these moments that I am blessed by God. It isn't a contradiction, but the beauty that is our Lord. We pack our calendars to tightly at Christmas time, and then run ourselves silly trying to accomplish it all. The source of all time, energy, love and courage, our God has an endless supply of everything we require to serve Him.

Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost. Romans 15:13

When I am at the bottom of the barrel I don't have to rely on myself to get through. I can't rejuvenate my mind, soul and body, but God can. He can re-infuse me with the hope, joy and peace that are waning from my life. I may have created my own schedule with many ways to witness and share His love during the Christmas season, but it only through God's power and grace that I have the stamina to continue.

The only way to flourish during the month of December and not get into the traps of the world is to stay close to God's fountain. It is overflowing with all those blessings like energy, motivation, love, compassion, creativity and work ethic. If we start the day close to the Lord, we'll be filled to capacity with all we could ask or think. That is the joy that extends through and past Advent.

I am the LORD thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt: open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it. Psalm 81:10

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

10 Days Until Christmas

A decade ago I wrote a newspaper article about how much it would cost in the present day to purchase all of the gifts in the song, The 12 Days of Christmas. I contacted local merchants and added up all of the birds, jewelry and service providers - the total came to almost $50,000.

Today the gifts are equally outrageous. The price of technology has gone through the roof so we can have convenience at our finger tips. Entertainment is overly important and under-appreciated. If you send nothing at all, you are considered cheap and thoughtless.

But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. Acts 8:20

The gifts of God, the true and precious gifts, are not found in packages or purchased in stores. This sounds cliche, but the flesh is so much more interested in the gift than the giving. It's a sad state of affairs when we allow our gift-buying and gift-giving to rule our thoughts. The money isn't the issue, but the gift of God's truth behind them.

Consider these gift ideas instead of something useless and frivolous:
* A framed family picture that is more than 50 years old. Include the story behind it in your own hand writing.
* A gift card to the grocery store the recipient frequents.
* Christmas ornaments and decorations.
* Scripture to hang on the wall or display on a table.
* The gift of your time!

But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many. Romans 5:15

Society tells us that everyone deserves gifts at Christmas. This is where greed, lust and envy originate. The only one who has ever deserved a gift was Jesus Christ, and that is the gift of our devotion. He deserved so much more than the three gifts He actually received, but the love and obedience of His believers is the best present He could ask for.

Salvation is the only free gift that is priceless. On His birthday, the Christmas day that we celebrate by giving each other presents, we should also be celebrating the gift of eternal life. It will never rust, break, tarnish, decay or fall apart. It continually grows brighter and more powerful with each passing day.

Give the gift of God's love by sharing the Gospel this Advent season. You don't need a credit card, cash or receipt, and it can never be returned. It is the perfect fit for everyone. It is always the right color, shape and size, and compliments everything that you are. Accept it and your life will never be the same.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

11 Days Until Christmas

Each woman who attended the Christmas party for our Ladies' Sunday School class this past weekend received a wonderful gift to take home. It was a folder full of holiday recipes collected from all the ladies of the class. We asked them to write them out in their own hand writing and we made enough copies for everyone to have one. They were collected in a folder and were waiting on the table when they arrived.

These are priceless recipes, each with a family story behind them. They ranged from main dishes to appetizers, side dishes to desserts. In this collection are tips and ideas that have now been passed on to new generations of cooks who want to bless their homes with delicious Christmas meals.

Food is such a central part of the holidays. We gather around the dining room table to eat. We go out to restaurants as a family. We shop together, we prepare together and we dine together. When we are hungry, we sit down to a plate full of these special treats, like those we shared on Saturday.

Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. Matthew 5:6

But after this great Christmas meal, we will hunger again. Our stomachs will only be full for a short while before we need to eat again. The hunger for the Word is much more powerful and much easier to satisfy. When we seek God's will in our lives, we are filled with all the goodness He has to offer. This satisfaction never goes away because the Lord's desire is that it grow and grow in our hearts.

Nevertheless he left not himself without witness, in that he did good, and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness. Acts 14:17

There is never a worry that God might not fulfill our physical needs someday. He will fill us with food and He will fill us with joy. These are the eternal promises that make temporal hunger seem unimportant. Our greater good is always God's focus, and the fruitful seasons are continuous if we'll only open our eyes to see them.

So as you prepare, cook and bake this Advent season, praise the Lord that you are able to help Him satisfy the physical hunger of those you love. And praise Him for the hunger He puts in our hearts for His Word, His love and His fellowship. As satisfying as the food you prepare will be, the satisfaction of God is never-ending.

Monday, December 13, 2010

12 Days Until Christmas

I wonder what your tree topper is. It may seem like a silly thought, but work with me here. Is it an angel, watching over the holiday festivities? Do you have bows tied to the top with ribbons cascading down? Perhaps there are flowers or wreaths or bears or birds.
But more often than not, there is a star. It may twinkle. It may change colors. But it send out that warm glow over the whole tree, lighting up the balls and garland below.

The very basic reason for the star is the remembrance of how the visitors found the Christ child that precious, special night.

When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. Matthew 2:9

That bright directional beacon led the wise men straight to the manger and right to the answer to their prayers. The moment of salvation was here and the star directed the way. Whether we're experts in charting the stars or not, we can still follow the light to the Savior of the world. He is not hidden in some far away place. He is bathed in light with a bright, twinkling star showing us which way to go.

Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life. John 8:12

Imagine a dark, plain Christmas tree - no strands of lights and no star on top. What a depressing holiday that would be. No hope, no joy and no light in the darkness. That's our world without Christ. He is the light shining where there is no light, a perfect and luminescent beacon bringing us to His side.

Forget the darkness and the sorrow found within it. Forget the long nights of staggering and stumbling in the dark. Jesus Christ, the light of the world, came that night in Bethlehem with the star above Him for all to see. We follow that star because it leads to life, to love and to fellowship with our Savior. The world would be forever changed thanks to the light He brought with Him.

Are you rejoicing in the light this Advent season, or is the star on top of your tree the only twinkles you will see? Draw close to the light of the world today and bring your whole family with you. There is so much darkness in this world, but following Jesus will illuminate our way. Rejoice in the light!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

13 Days Until Christmas

As you worship the Lord today and celebrate the Advent season, I ask that you remember the missionaries serving God around the world. Many of them will not be able to return from their foreign fields to celebrate Christmas with their families. They may be on the other side of the world in two weeks, rejoicing alone or with a few immediate family members.

And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. Mark 16:15
There are no excuses or justifications here - go and preach. Our men of God on the mission field are preaching the Gospel to people who might not otherwise hear it. There is no weekend off or Christmas vacation. This is their calling, forsaking all.
Pray this Christmas season for all of our missionaries in all countries around the earth. They are going into all the world in our place, and they need our prayers during the holidays even more. Beg the Lord to give them comfort if they are away from family, supply all their needs and give them courage to continue in faith.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

14 Days Until Christmas

This past week a woman made an observation that literally made me nauseous. I was showing her the nativity scene that Danny has made for our shop this season and she said:

You know, it's getting harder and harder to find nativities anymore. They're just taking the Christ out of Christmas.

Not at our house, was my quick reply. Others may turn to commercialization and the lure of large purchases, but there are still many families around the world that are centered on the true joy of Christmas - our Savior!

The nativity means joy: the angels brought that joy to the shepherds so they could pass it on to others. That's our joy, too.

The nativity means fulfillment: the wise men knew the Savior was coming and this lovely family scene was the answer to their prayers. It is the answer to our prayers, too.

The nativity means that God's promises are true. Throughout the Old Testament He promised a Savior, Redeemer and Lord would come to earth, and each promise has come to pass. His promises today are just as real and just as powerful.

The nativity means that Jesus' life was real: with no beginning there can be no Gospel. With the picture of His birth we are reminded that this Jesus Christ truly did come to dwell among us and for one reason - for us. That is just as real today as at the moment of His birth.

The nativity means the anticipation of salvation: just 33 years after this picturesque moment, the little baby would be a grown man hanging on the cross for the remission of our sins. The perfectness of Christ's birth is a sharp contrast to the brutality of His death. But the two must go hand in hand to tell the story.

The nativity means the promise of Heaven: if you've read the back of the book, you know that we win! Jesus Christ's birth in the nativity scene is the promise of His entire birth, life, death, resurrection and return. This is the Gospel and this is the promise of eternal life with the Father.

With the nativity, we have everything we need for this life and for eternal life. Christ is the center of Christmas because the celebration of His birth is the celebration of our eternal life with Him. Don't let anyone take the Christ out of your Christmas season.

Friday, December 10, 2010

15 Days Until Christmas

What a joy yesterday was! I spent most of the day at the craft bazaar of a local Christian school. My table was full of Christmas cards, other greeting cards and all sorts of paper and wood crafts – all covered in Scripture and bathed in prayer. These creations are my heart, and it's such a pleasure to share them with students and their parents.

Each class had the opportunity to come through and shop the little Santa's Workshop area, and the little ones were the cutest. They practiced reading our “Stuff From Trees” sign, and many checked to make sure everything we had came from trees somehow. I got stumped, though, when one boy asked if the marker I used to write my price tags cam from a tree...what quick minds they have!

The best part of my job is being able to share my faith with everyone who stops to browse. All of our pieces have Scripture on them or in them, and have images that share God's love and grace. This is our ministry to our community through these shows and in our online shop.

The children were especially receptive because they enjoy reading the Scripture on each card. It was also a blessing to be able to explain to children why I wear skirts when it's freezing outside. Even a time for making money was an opportunity to witness and share the Gospel to young people.

I was also able to offer some comfort to one child's mother. She came in looking sick and miserable, and I do not exaggerate. After introducing myself and asking if she was alright, I learned that she was going through some serious health problems and no one could explain them. She's not sleeping so that adds to the problems. She began questioning what was going on with life in general.

This opened the door for me to talk about God's plan for our days and our life. She was tired and frustrated, but God already knows the path we're walking down before we ever begin. This lovely woman isn't walking that path alone, regardless of how she feels at this moment. I reminded her that with prayer and trust, we can be content in the moment no matter the circumstances.

That is the joy of Christmas. With the arrival of Jesus Christ on earth, we are able to celebrate the gifts of redemption, salvation and peace. Those gifts can't be wrapped, but they can be given each day throughout the year with the giant red bow of our love on top. That's why we're left here on earth after salvation – so we can pass on what we've been given to a lost and dying world.

In the course of our conversation, the student's mother purchased a copy of my book. It blessed my heart that someone so broken and discouraged would allow me to show her God's Word for her life. All the time we spent at the school this weekend is totally worth that one woman receiving comfort from the Lord through my words. It makes my Christmas that much more merry!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

16 Days Until Christmas

Over the next four days, I will only be in my house to sleep. It will be the busiest weekend of the Christmas holiday, and I pray I'll make it through with all my wits about me. I've squeezed everything I can into a finite number of hours and that would probably drive me insane any other time of year. The difference today is what I'll be busy with...

* Christian School Bazaar - I have the special opportunity to be part of an area Christian school's craft bazaar for two days. The children have a few dollars to spend, and the vendors provide items that are $5 or less. This way the students can purchase a few small gifts for their parents, siblings and other loved ones on their own. The school just asks that we return part of our profit, which we lovingly and willingly do. What a privilege to be able to supply my cards and gifts, all covered with Scripture, to children.

* The Funeral Home Christmas Gathering - My husband's boss opens his home each year to the employees and friends of our funeral home. It's a time to socialize outside the normal setting and spend an evening together. Not everyone at this party will be a Christian, so I have the joy of sharing the Gospel and my faith...perhaps with words and perhaps without.

* Ladies' Sunday School Class Luncheon - Open to all the ladies of the church, this gathering is one of my favorite of the year! Our gingerbread theme is the cutest ever and we've spent several days planning, decorating and baking for it. It's just a sweet time of fellowship with our sisters in Christ. The time in preparation is all worth it to be warm and cozy together.

* Sunday services - We're always looking forward to the Lord's Day! Sunday School, morning preaching, afternoon Christmas program practice and evening's a full, busy, glorious day in God's house.

No matter how busy we are in the upcoming 16 days, the planning, preparation, creating and prayer are leading up to times of celebration. Each gathering is a moment to praise God for the gift of His Son. And we can do that with or without all of the trappings.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

17 Days Until Christmas

You'd never know it is Christmas if you walked into our house right now. We have scheduled ourselves so tightly lately that there are only a scattering of decorations around our home. The occasional ornament and holly sprig don't seem to add a holiday feel to an otherwise ordinary day.

Some people feel that the decorations make it the Christmas season. Some hurry to get their decorations up so they'll be the first, the largest or the best. Others want to show off their talents, budgets and ideas. And the results can be glorious, lovely show pieces.

Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. John 14:23

The Lord wants our heart as His temple, a place where we worship Him constantly. Not suddenly at Advent and not with a show of tinsel and gold. If His abode, the very core of our being, isn't Christ-centered all year long, Christmas won't be a special time. It will be one more month to "get through" so we can get back to normal.

It doesn't matter if I put up a hundred Christmas trees or wrap the house in garland...if I'm not wholly and lovingly devoted to my Savior. The number of decorations will never be enough...if I'm focused on the trappings and not the Lord.

The heart attitude of a Christian woman is the only thing God is interested in. The decorations are for us...the year-round, growing relationship is for Him. Sure, I will bring down some Christmas decorations from the attic before the month is over, but they aren't the most important part of my Advent season. They aren't what brings the joy and peace to my heart.

That's my Savior. And He's on His way!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

18 Days Until Christmas

So...yesterday I was passed on the interstate like we were in a NASCAR race. People were in such a hurry that it didn't seem to matter some of us choose to do the speed limit. There was somewhere so important to be that weaving in and out of traffic became less of a threat and more of an importance.

Once I arrived at my destination, some other ladies shopping were in such a hurry that they pushed their way through crowds, cut people off and snatched product off the shelves to get it before someone else. Even as I was putting my change back in my purse at the checkout, the woman behind me was already pushing her way in.

During the Advent season this irritates me more than usual. I want the people around me to be as full of joy about Christmas coming as I am. For me it's not about presents or decorating or parties, but focusing on the anticipation of our soon-coming King!

And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. Luke 2:15-16

The shepherds had every reason to hurry to the manger. There was joy and anticipation of seeing the Christ child. And yes, there was an urgency to bring Him gifts and glory in His arrival. But the scene wasn't rushed for personal reasons...this was simply the moment they had been waiting for. Their hurry was much more serious than ours could ever be. That personal visit with Jesus was the perfect reason to pick up the pace. Shopping and eating aren't.

Please don't rush through the next 18 days. We can't take time, people or moments along the way for granted as we speed on to the next event or purchase. Think of all the joy and blessings we might miss if we're not completely focused on God's plan for our day and the reason we're celebrating Christmas in the first place.

Christmas is not about hurrying through, but about taking the time to rejoice in His approach! Are you taking time?

Monday, December 6, 2010

19 Days Until Christmas

This month is my busiest time of year. Many days I am at the mercy of other's people's needs and schedules as we plan parties, attend events and get things accomplished. This creates a full calendar, a full plate and an overly-full mind.

For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints. 1 Corinthians 14:33

All I want is a moment of peace. The confusion of the world says cram it full...try to do busy and you'll be happy. But I don't want happiness. I want God's peace. That's the greatest gift of all time, and it won't be wrapped under a tree.

The peace of God passes all understanding, and that peace began in Bethlehem. When Jesus Christ came to earth, He brought a beautiful, perfect peace with Him. Nothing man-made can begin to compare with the peace that comes from our Savior.

With His arrival came peace.
With the teaching of the Gospel came peace.
With His perfect will came peace.
With the blotting out of our sins came peace.
With His resurrection came peace.
With His intercession to God came peace.

The Christmas season was never meant to be a time of confusion, busyness and frazzled minds. The birth of Jesus Christ wasn't hurried or just another note on the calendar. It was a moment in time that brought peace and clarity to a lost and dying world. It was peaceful 2010 years ago and it can be peaceful in your heart at this very moment.

Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. John 14:27

Sunday, December 5, 2010

20 Days Until Christmas

Many places already have snow on the ground - we do not. In our area we may not see snow, or at least it will only be here for a day and then disappear. That's one of the trademarks of the South. A white Christmas would be picturesque this year, but it's probably not a probability here.

But that also means no shoveling, no tracking into the house and no scraping off the car in the morning. Preventing the extra work is a lovely thought, but sometimes it would be nice to watch a gentle snow fall from the window by the fireplace.

She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarlet. Proverbs 31:21

The snow fall reminds us of Christ's purity. The snow is completely clean and pure until it hits the earth. It is perfectly white until man and things man has created touch it and destroy it. The joy of the Christian woman is that Christ's purity never changed - He came to earth sinless, was perfect while He was on the earth and returned to Heaven retaining all of His purity. We can see that beauty of perfection in each tiny snowflake.

Snow reminds us of how God sees each one of us. They say no two snowflakes are alike, that there are subtle differences in each one that make it unique. Even when we feel like just another face in the crowd, the Lord knows our name, our heart, our desires, our imperfections and our needs. We are completely unique compared to everyone around us, whether we feel like it or not. We are special, precious individuals in God's eyes, just as we see millions of unique snowflakes each winter.

This Advent season, look at the snow fall as a time of remembrance, not just something else on your to-do list. Take a few moments to reflect on Jesus Christ's perfection and the perfect He sees in us, not in sinlessness but in being the perfect "us" we are meant to be. Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

21 Days Until Christmas

Have you had many fires in the fireplace this winter season? Here in South Carolina it's only been cool enough for a couple of weeks, so we've had logs burning almost every day.

The joys of the fireplace are that warmth and glow that spill out of the flames. There's nothing more cozy than a crackling fire and the soothing heat it creates.

During the Christmas season many companies use fireplaces in their advertising to conjure up images of family time and togetherness. We associate the warmth of the fire with the warmth of our love and devotion.

The apostles had that same comparison in their personal interactions with Jesus Christ. In the very last chapter of Luke, Jesus met with His disciples again, telling them about Scripture and sharing a meal. His presence and attention had a profound impact on their hearts.

And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures? Luke 24:32

Compare that burning heart to the roaring fire. There are times that the blaze is so hot and so strong that we can't go near it or we'll be burned. We have to shield our eyes from the dancing flames because they are so very bright.

Could someone say that about your heart? Have you allowed Jesus to work Himself so deeply into your heart that it's burning inside you? Would someone have to shield their eyes because Christ is blazing and roaring inside you?

This Advent season we need to remember the feeling of that fire in our hearts. If we slow down, keep the Lord's Word in our focus and seek to grow in His grace, we'll feel those coals begin to kick up flame again. The days leading up to Christmas are the perfect opportunity to be reminded of the precious miracle of Christ's birth. There is no greater joy-stirrer than the birthday of the King to rekindle our burning hearts.

Friday, December 3, 2010

22 Days Until Christmas

Our Christmas cards are in the works. I say that at this time every year. Sometimes they get sent out and sometimes I am disappointed because they don't go out. Christmas cards are one of my lazy, procrastination problems in the December of every year.

And that is very sad. As Christian women we have been entrusted with the ability to share our faith through the written Word. With just a few scribbles of our pen, we can change the world with the story of God's love.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. John 1:1-4

Jesus Christ is the Word. Through Him words have power and meaning. Sharing the Word of the Word is offering an eternal gift that alter lives and brighten pathways wherever you send it. Are you willing to take the few minutes necessary to mail a card filled with the Lord's own words?

No matter how tight money is, we can give the gift of God's Word. In a simple note hand-written in a Christmas card, we can shower someone with His love, hope, peace and joy. We can tell the story of His greatest miracle - what He has done in our own life.

As you prepare your Christmas cards in the upcoming days, remember that the picture of a snowman or the glittered images of reindeer aren't important. It's nice to receive family pictures and stories from home, but there's so much more to put in that envelope.

Send you loved ones a package filled to the brim with the truth of Jesus Christ's birth, death, burial and Resurrection. The gift of the Gospel, in God's words and in your own hand, is a precious, life-changing gift that will last forever.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

23 Days Until Christmas

One of the joys of having my in-laws staying with us for a week is the opportunity to share and learn. We have several boxes of Christmas decorations that they used before they went to Mongolia as missionaries, and I never knew the story behind many of them. So they stayed wrapped up and tucked away.

But this week they all came out - the living room floor was covered with ornaments, garland, candles and bows. We cleaned, we laughed, we hung a few, sorted out a few and repacked a few. And the best part was the stories...

I got to learn about my husband as a child. I heard memories of a family I haven't been part of for very long. I caught up on family history, grew in my knowledge of world cultures and solidified my relationship with a precious Christian woman - all through a few boxes of Christmas decorations. Pieces that I thought were outdated and musty suddenly had a history and meaning to go with them.

Perhaps you have already finished your decorating for this holiday season. Or maybe you're still trying to work up the motivations to pull the boxes down. Either way, I encourage you to make this time of Advent one of saving precious memories.

As you hang ornaments and set out decorations, record the story behind them. Designate a recorder in the family, take pictures and write down stories. Or shoot a video of each family member displaying their favorite piece and explaining why. These times will fly by, and if there is no record of your Christmas past, Christmas future won't have the blessing of those memories.

Advent is a time to combine the wonderful memories of the past with the anticipation of the future. Each moment is a blessing, and sharing those moments with loved ones - sharing your memories and your history - is the most precious gift of all.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

24 Days Until Christmas

It is suddenly the first day of December - where has the year gone? Moment after moment has passed into the past, and I pray that you have used many of them to grow in the Lord.

Perhaps you've read your Bible through in a year. Or maybe you've done a personal study over a single book or a few chapters. Regardless, God's Word is the foundation of growth.

There is nothing in this life more important than studying God's Word - diving in, immersing yourself, drinking it in - and learning for yourself exactly what the Lord has designed you to be.

Between now and Christmas, over the next 24 days, read the story of our Savior's birth every day. Look through Luke Chapter 2. Marvel over Matthew Chapters 1 and 2. Join John in worshiping the Word in Chapter 1. Even Isaiah and the other books of the Old Testament speak to the coming of our Lord.

Find those special passages, read a different one each day and treasure the excitement of the impending arrival. God loved this world so much that He chose to send His Son, in all the humility of human flesh, to save us from sin. The joy that surrounds the birth of that baby over 2000 years ago should be just as fresh today in the heart of each Christian woman everywhere.

So reread the words. Savor them and commit them to memory. Build the excitement over that precious night of our Savior's birth by hearing the story told in God's own Word.