Welcome to the December Archive. You are welcome to read the entire archive, or find a topic on the list below that is of interest to you. Just click the link, and you will be taken directly to the day it was written. Enjoy, and may you know God's peace as you read His Word.
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When writing, I used the New International Version of the Bible. Due to copyright restrictions, I have not included quotes for the scriptures, but highly encourage you to open your own bibles to read the scripture passages for yourselves.
A WORD FOR TODAY, December 1999
More Skating I chose not to skate at the party. As Zack skated along the wall, it was possible for me to walk with him, just on the other side of the wall. I was there to give him a hand when necessary, and my presence was an encouragement to him.
The time came for him to set off on his own. One trip down the wall, without warning, he turned the corner and headed around the rink. I stopped him a moment and said, "Zack if you keep going, you will have to rely upon yourself and the wall, are you ready?" He was ready. So, off he went. As he rounded to the other side of the rink, I was waiting at the spot where there was no wall, to offer a hand in that moment of weakness, and to give more words of encouragement. I was there for him, but it was important that I let him go. The more he focused on my presence, the more he wavered and fell.
Vicki was not quite so understanding of this concept. When I asked her to keep an eye on him in those areas where that were beyond my reach, she became like a mother hen hovering over her charge. Her own skating ability is shaky at best, so her constant attention and help were more of a hindrance. She caused him to fall many times, and he was unable to get up when she tried to lift him.
Read Romans 16:17-18
Too often, mature Christians try to become the 'savior' in their role as teacher. They have been charged to help new Christians to become mature in their faith. Yet, as they hover over their charges, they are teaching reliance upon the wrong things, and they cause them to fall. Beware of those teachers that cause you to stumble, for their focus is not on the Lord, but on themselves. Always rely upon the abilities of Jesus Christ alone.
Get a Life I spend a great deal of time at my computer. Perhaps I spend too much time here. It is such a joy to share God with people, that no moment spent writing is a burden. But not all my time at the computer is spent doing these devotions. Much of the time is wasted on time in chat rooms, or just playing silly video games. As I was enjoying time with my children the other day at the skating rink, I realized that while I wasted time on the computer, I was missing out on wonderful opportunities to share the Word and to see God's presence in the world around me.
We can not understand math if we don't learn how to add two plus two. We can not truly understand the pains of others if we do not experience them. We can not understand life if we do not go out and live. Most of all, we can not understand God if we do not search for Him.
Much of my computer time is spent in Bible study, and my relationship with God has deepened because the time I spend in His Word. I feel so close to God as I study, that I would rather stay here all the time. I often forget that God has a way of revealing Himself in those every day experiences.
Read Isaiah 55:10-11
How often do you waste your time doing useless things, when you could be sharing God in the world? My encouragement for you today is to get out beyond life as you know it and see how God reveals Himself to you. Share His Word, and the blessings will return to you abundantly. You may just be surprised where you see His face or hear His voice.
Correction I have the opportunity to spend time in my children's school each week. It is my pleasure to help the teachers and staff in many ways. During those hours spent in the classrooms and roaming the halls of the school, I am granted the chance to observe the teachers and students in action.
It is quite interesting to watch the children. There are some children that respond to rebuke no matter how great the peer pressure or how bad the approach of the teacher. These children recognize a voice of authority and respond in a right manner. There are others who respond with excuses or rebel against that which on the surface does not appear exemplary.
John was a cousin of Jesus Christ. He was born of Zechariah and Elizabeth. He came to rebuke Israel for their sins, to call them back into a relationship with God and warn them of the coming kingdom.
Read Matthew 3:1-6
There are teachers today who have been sent by God to call us to repentance, for God's Kingdom is close at hand. John's appearance and technique did not give him the look of authority to call for such repentance, and yet He spoke the Word of the Lord. Those who were wise and discerning repented and were baptized.
When you are corrected by one of these teachers, sent by God to show you the error of your ways, how do you respond? Are you obedient to His Word, accept the rebuke and fix that which is broken? As a beloved child of God, you will hear His Voice clearly. The wise man will hear and obey.
Hanukkah In 168 BC, Antiochus IV Ephipanes, the Syrian king, desecrated the Temple in Jerusalem in an effort to frustrate the Jewish faith. He wanted all in his kingdom to worship the gods of Syria, but the Jews refused to worship any but God. At that time many Jews were massacred for not obeying the king's command.
Mattathias, a priest, led a group of Jews into safety. There in the mountains, they trained to fight. Judas Maccabeus led a victorious military assault that gained control of the Temple. In 165 BC, exactly three years following the desecration, the Jews rededicated the Temple. They feasted for eight days.
The lighting of the menorah at Hanukkah represents the story of the miracle of the oil, which is recorded in the Talmud. It is said that at the rededication, only one day's worth of consecrated oil was found for the lamp, but the light burned for eight days.
The story of the Maccabean Revolt does not end here, though. When it was discovered that the Jews were worshipping God in their Temple again, the Syrians continued the persecution. The Maccabeans went on to fight for their national freedom. After their victory, they ruled Israel for 100 years.
They fought first for religious freedom, and then fought for national freedom. They sought God first, then all else followed.
Read Matthew 6:33
In the seventeenth century, a group of Pilgrims left England for the New World and religious freedom. A century later, their children fought for national freedom. For several hundred years, America stood on the foundation of God. Yet, in recent days, many things are going wrong in our country. There is violence, hatred, and immorality of all sorts. When some terrible event happens we ask, "Why?"
The answer is that we have allowed God to be cast from our national identity. The solution to our problems today is simply to fight for God, just as Judas Maccabeus. Once the temple is made clean, all else will follow.
Celebration The face of Hanukkah has changed over the millennia. Even the different accounts of the Maccabean rebellion show a different emphasis. The early writings are more historical in nature, centering on the military victory. The rabbinical writings are more religious in nature and focus on the miracle of the oil. The book of 2 Maccabees in the Apocrypha tell us that a measure was passed that the Jews should celebrate the rededication of the temple every year. Yet, in the early days, it was just a minor festival.
Over the ages, particularly in America, the celebration of Hanukkah has taken on a new look. Cultural influences have brought change to the way Jewish families share this story of victory. The emphasis now is on the lighting of the menorah, and on the presents. The practices of Christians and their celebration of Christmas have impacted Hanukkah.
The way we all worship is impacted by society. Christian worship over the millennia has changed according to the culture that surrounds it. The traditions, buildings and music all are impacted by the world around. These changes help to share the story of God with the world, bringing it to them in a way they understand. These differences in worship do not matter to God; they are not the worship He is looking for.
Read Romans 12:1
We have been preparing for Christmas. The tree is up; the nic-nacs are scattered around. The ingredients for Christmas cookies are ready to be mixed. Christmas cards sit waiting to be signed, and presents wait to be purchased. We do all these things because we love the Lord and want to share in His birth. The way we do it is affected by our world.
Yet, these things are not true worship. What God wants from us is submission to His Will in the midst of this world. So, while the cultural norm for celebrating this holiday is fun, and does have Christ as the centre, we need to remember through this season that God wants us, not our actions.
Rocky's Rules In our school, we have a list of rules the children are expected to follow. This list of six rules is given in both positive and negative language. One rule is, "Do be gentle. Do not hurt anyone." Another is, "Do listen. Don't interrupt." A third reads, "Do be honest. Don't cover up the truth."
It has been found that a positive perspective on behavior is more valuable than the negatively stated rules we have always heard. We should teach a child the proper way to act, not just tell them how not to act. This is not a new concept. The greatest teacher in history also taught rules in the positive form.
If we look into the Old Testament, we find the ultimate list of rules. The Decalogue, or Ten Commandments, is the standard by which God expected the Jews to live. These rules are listed in the negative form; "thou shalt not." All religions have similar moral standard.
During His ministry among us, Jesus Christ taught the rules from a new perspective. Instead of "thou shalt not bow down to other gods," Jesus taught us, "thou shalt love the Lord your God." Instead of "thou shalt not murder, steal, and cheat," Jesus taught us, "thou shalt love your neighbor as yourself." Rather than just teaching us what not to do, He gave us the standard of how we should be. These rules are summed up in what we call "the Golden Rule". Every religion has a similar rule, but all are found in the negative form.
Read Matthew 7:12
As you journey through each day, do more than just avoid negative behavior. Treat others as you expect to be treated. If you feel like yelling at your kids, do more than just avoid the raised voice. Discipline them with a hug. If you feel angry because someone cuts in line at the store, do not just allow them the place in line, but wish them a happy day. If you feel like you hate someone, do not just find forgiveness for what you feel they've done, give them the love of Christ.
Games I went to a party where we did a gift exchange. We played the game where everyone gets a number, and each get to select a gift in turn. When it is your turn, you can either take a gift that has already been opened, or you can select a gift.
This was a group of Christian women. In the beginning, none were willing to 'steal' their favorite, because it is not nice to steal. That didn't last long. Once somebody took that step, it was easy for all the rest to follow. We noticed that once one sin had entered the game, others followed easily. The women would peak at the gift to see if they like it and would then 'lie' about how it was broken or ugly. Others would get very protective of their gift, feigning weaponry and violence to keep their prize.
This was just a game. We laughed and had a great time, and yet there is a lesson for life there. Have you noticed how easily sin grows once it is a part of your routine? We see it in our children. Once they do something they know is wrong, they will resort to lies. These lies lead to disrespect. This sin can then spread beyond that person, affecting those around them. The original sin may not have been anything very wrong, perhaps even part of the game, but once one sin enters, the others follow easily.
Read Hebrews 12:14-15
When you are a beloved child of the Most High, you will recognize the actions of people that are not according to the Gospel. When you see sin, do all you can to avoid being pulled in to it. Speak the truth, but sometimes they will not hear. Do not allow yourself to become angry or bitter because of the sin that touches you. Do not sin in response to the sin. Your holy and blameless life in Christ Jesus will stand as a testament to His grace in your life.
Blessing In yesterday's devotional, we saw how easy it is for sin to become entrenched in your life. One small act against the Father leads to other acts against Him. These sins also affect those around us. As forgiven children of God, washed clean by the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, we are expected to lead holy lives. God has blessed us, so that we might be a blessing.
Have you ever noticed how easily it is to be happy around someone who is truly happy? They always have a kind word or a cheerful smile. When they are in a room, the atmosphere is one of warmth and love. It is hard not to smile back when you are greeted with those eyes that seem to twinkle with the joy of the Lord. The atmosphere, wherever they are, changes with their presence.
Read Genesis 12:2-3
What does it mean to be blessed? When someone says, "God bless you," what are they saying? In our world today, we think it means to make us prosperous. We seek the things of this world -- such as material possessions, power and prosperity. When we find those things we consider ourselves blessed.
The word for blessing in the Greek is eulogeo. The meaning of this word is "to speak well of". When someone gives you a compliment, what happens? It makes you feel good, and you go on to share that goodness with others. Compliments from those who you highly respect bring even greater joy. How great it is, then, when God speaks well of us. After all, He is the Most High -- perfect, true and mighty. A word of blessing from Him is greater than all the wealth of the world.
We have a choice. We can either let sin move and grow in our lives, or we can share the light of Christ with the world. My prayer is that God will speak well of you today, and that you will let the blessing snowball to all those whose path you cross this day.
Cows A cow's digestive system is much different than the human system. The human system is composed of one stomach and a long intestinal tract. When food is eaten, the nutrients are removed from the food throughout the entire system. Yet, many nutrients are lost in the waste.
A cow has one stomach with multiple chambers and a very short intestine. When she eats, the food is digested in different ways in the different chambers. It goes into the first chamber and is partially digested. She then regurgitates what she has eaten and rechews the food, which is then swallowed back into the stomach. There is it fully digested and the waste is sent through the intestine for disposal. In this way, the cow gets far more nutrients out of the food she eats. Her intestinal tract is much shorter than ours is; therefore it is necessary for her to rechew the food to get everything necessary out of her food.
Read Jeremiah 15:16
Jesus tells us that man does not live on bread alone, and that He is the bread of life. His word is food for our souls, and we should eat of Him. Have you ever noticed that whenever you learn a new lesson from the Lord, He calls you to apply that lesson? You learn about patience, and you have to wait in a long line at the grocery store with a two-year-old. You learn about loving your enemies, and you meet the meanest person in the whole world.
Of course, we often fail when faced with these tests. Yet, in failing, we learn a greater lesson. Each time we feed on His Word, remembering and living what we've learned, we come to a closer relationship with Him. Our lives should be a visible witness to what we've learned. If it goes within and stays there, we are not getting as much out of it as we should. Today, live the lessons you've learned from the LORD, renew your knowledge of Him, and shine His light to those who cross your path.
Prayer There is so much to deal with at this time of year. There is the stress of preparing for the holidays. Many people are dealing with colds and flu. Environmental changes -- such as cold, darkness and precipitation often bring on depression. Loneliness is magnified; financial worries are heightened. Our hectic schedules mean we are not resting properly.
This is also a time of joy. We spend time with our families and our friends. We exchange presents to show each other our love. There are many opportunities to worship God, with singing and feasting. We live on an emotional roller coaster for the last few weeks of the year.
All of these things, the bad and the good, can leave us in a weakened spiritual state. We tend to put off things like prayer and Bible study, simply because we do not have the time. Yet, we need that prayer and study now more than ever.
Read James 5:13-15
Who is sick? There are many today are in hospitalized for different ailments, and we should pray for them. Sickness is not confined to the flesh, though. Anyone who has something, some sin, blocking his or her relationship with God needs prayer. We all need prayer.
It is not a sign of weakness to ask for help, particularly prayer. If you are lonely, depressed, sick, tired, stressed or in trouble, seek the prayers of an intercessor. Also spend time in prayer for yourself, for others and for the world, not only asking for God's healing, but also praising Him for His blessings. With our voices joined in prayer to God our Father, nothing will seem as bad as we thought. The cold will not be so cold, the darkness will be filled with light, and the sick in spirit, mind and body will know healing. Today, let us pray.
Christmas Cards At this time of year, we spend much time renewing old friendships. We enjoy a trip to the mailbox, because we know that there will be more holiday wishes than bills. Old friends renew their acquaintance with letters telling us about their adventures for the last year. We send out greetings to those that have in the past touched our lives, and wish them a blessed holiday season. Each year, as I remember these old friends, I promise myself I won't let a year go by before I contact them again. Yet, December rolls around far too quickly, and here I am, making the same promises.
It is such a blessing when an old friend contacts us. We remember the good times and are encouraged by the renewal of the relationship. It is the same in our relationship with God.
Read Jeremiah 4:1-2
This year, as you read and write all your holiday greetings, take a moment to consider those friendships. How could you make them better? Will you take the time throughout the year to remember those friends in prayer, drop them a note or have them over to dinner?
Even more important at this time is to recall your relationship with God. How will you make it better this year? Do you just visit with God a few times a year, or do you spend time with Him every day. Do you merely go to church on Sunday, and spend the rest of the week apart from God, focusing on the things of this world. We are greatly blessed when we take the time in our daily routine to be in prayer and the scriptures, and those blessings spread to the world around us.
Renew your old friendships today, particularly that relationship with God. You will be blessed.
Football There was a football game at the high school today. It rained, as it usually does here, and the already wet field became even muddier. By the middle of the football game, the players were covered from head to toe in mud. It was nearly impossible to distinguish one player from another. Each uniform was equally filthy. As a mother, I noticed each boy would have been equally difficult to make clean.
Read Romans 3:22-24
We, as beloved children of God, fall short of His glory. We are all covered in the sin we inherited from our fathers. It may appear that some are cleaner than others, they live according to a good moral code, giving and helping as the world needs. These works are an attempt to show our selves as clean, but our righteousness is as filthy rags. We are equally difficult to make clean.
During this time of Advent, we await the remembrance of the birth of our Salvation. God, in His mercy, sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to redeem us. Jesus came to cleanse us of the sin that made us filthy before God. Our faith in Jesus Christ means we are now clothed in His righteousness. As believers, we stand equal before God; He sees Jesus, not us.
Gifts are an important part of the Christmas celebration. Giving and exchanging these things of the world show our family and friends how much we love them. God has given us the greatest gift. By His grace, He has given us eternal life. There is not greater gift. Will you believe? Take this gift, wear it, and live according to the way of truth.
Trains A friend just celebrated her birthday. The gift she received was a Toy Story Train Set. Seems like an unusual gift for a grown woman to receive. It was something she saw in a shop that she really liked, so her family purchased it for her. It is now displayed underneath her Christmas tree for all to enjoy.
She was rather excited when her grandson was due to visit, because she wanted to share this marvelous toy with him. When he arrived and saw the train, his eyes lit up so brightly, with such joy. That joy spread to my friend, as she sat and watched his excitement and fascination with the train. She told me that his reaction was the best gift she received, and was better than any expensive gift she could have been given.
By sharing her gift she received far more in return.
Read Acts 20:35
How do you feel when someone takes such joy in a gift you've given? You watch their eyes light up and you rejoice with them. The love you have swells within you and you just want to savour every moment. God has given us a gift, His Son, our Lord Jesus. That gift from God gives us such joy and peace. We react with excitement as we take on the new life in Him.
The scriptures tell us that the angels throw a huge party when someone accepts God's great gift. If the angels rejoice with such gusto, imagine how God must react! He is blessed and rejoices with each new child as He watches their joy and excitement.
God gave us the greatest gift, and He is glorified each time someone's eyes light up in wonder. During this season of gift giving, let us return God's favour by sharing His Word about His Son with others. Everyone will be blessed. They will gain eternal life, you will enjoy the excitement, and the angels will have a party. But most of all, God will be glorified.
Snowflakes It rarely snows in England, but we witnessed a few flurries yesterday. It managed to precipitate in every form possible -- rain, sleet, snow, and freezing rain. Most of the time it was not one of these, but rather it was all of them. At the end of the school day, as all the mothers gathered at the entrance waiting for our children, we were cold and wet, getting colder and wetter. I was wearing a black coat, and the snowflakes stood out so well on the material of that coat.
I've looked at snow before today. Growing up in Pennsylvania meant many a snowy day home from school making snow angels and watching each snowflake fall to the ground. I've never noticed now as I did today. Amidst the rain drops falling on my coat were flakes that were perfect six pointed stars. They were tiny, not much more than an eighth of an inch. It was like someone was dropping tiny white confetti stars on me from heaven. These snowflakes were beautiful. I stood in amazement at how perfect each one was, and rejoiced as they glittered against my black coat.
Read Psalm 27:4
God is so good to put such beauty and perfection in something as tiny and insignificant as a snowflake. If there is so much goodness in such a small part of God's creation, imagine how wonderful it will be to stand face to face with Him. The glory of that snowflake offers just a glimmer of the magnificence of His Glory! I sing for joy at the beauty of God's creation in this world, yet it is not enough. Just as the snowflakes melt quickly and are gone forever, the beauty of this world will fade. Today seek God, that you might see that which is everlasting His Glory.
Lost I lost my keys in the grocery store the other day. I could not do anything without them. We were stuck in the store until the keys were found, since they are necessary to drive the car. I knew they must be in the shopping cart, so we looked in the collection of carts by the door. We thought our shopping cart had already been put away. After a long fruitless search we did not find them. So, we began walking down the aisles of the store, checking every square inch of the floor and shelves. Finally, someone spotted the keys in a cart that was still sitting near the register.
A friend asked last night, "What do you do when you just can not pray anymore?" It seems he had lost his way, having difficulties seeing God in his life. He was unable to keep the daily discipline of Bible reading, and his prayer had become fruitless. He was losing hope. He knew he needed to change, but he did not know how.
We know where we must search, and yet when that search becomes fruitless we give up and go try to find the answers elsewhere. When we can't see God, we need to look for Him where we know He can be found... the scriptures.
Read Romans 15:4
Do you feel there is something lacking in your prayer life? Humans are sensory beings. We need to be able to see, hear, taste, smell and feel things. God cannot be sensed in physical human terms. We have to accept His presence on faith. This is often very difficult to do. So, God has given us the Scriptures, so that in these times of uncertainty, we have someplace we can go to see Him.
Is your Bible well worn from daily use? Or do the pages crackle when you open it? For the next few days, we'll look at ways that we can get back on track when you've fallen off the discipline of your daily walk with God.
Beginning Each of us, even the most devoted Christians, has times when we feel like God is far away. We have moments when we find it difficult to pray. Do not let this moment of uncertainty become a stumbling block to your relationship with God. If you have a moment of failure, start anew. But where do we begin?
Read Luke 11:1-4
Prayer is communication with God. The Lord's Prayer is a simple, yet powerful way to talk to God. When Jesus taught this prayer, He was giving us the perfect pattern of that which we should take to God in prayer.
Jesus shows us that we can have a close relationship with God, so close we can call Him Abba, or Daddy. Since He is our Father, we are to show Him the utmost respect, and we do so by honouring even His name. When we ask for His Kingdom to come, we are committing ourselves to His Will in our life.
We should ask Him for the things we need. Daily bread in this instance is more than just food, it is about everything that is necessary in our lives. Jesus shows us that we are to ask only for TODAY. When we ask for forgiveness, we are confessing that we are sinners in need of Him. In offering forgiveness for those who sin against us, we are showing how our lives are changing to be more like His. We ask protection from the evil in this world, so that we might live according to His Will each day.
If you cannot speak a prayer in your own words today, begin your journey with the prayer our Lord taught. Each day, personalize this prayer by submitting yourself, asking for your needs, confessing your sins, and admitting to the presence of His Hand in your life. As the discipline of a daily routine establishes itself in your life, your prayer time will become a habit that will be difficult to break.
Temptation In the fourth chapter of the Gospel according to St. Luke, we read of the Temptation of Jesus Christ in the desert. Jesus had gone to the desert for forty days to for prayer and fasting, to prepare for His ministry. He did not eat during that time, and at the end of the days He was hungry.
The devil tempted Him, telling Him to change the stones into bread. Jesus fought the temptation with scripture.
Read Luke 4:4
Next the devil showed Jesus the whole world. He told Jesus that the authority had been given to him, and that he'd pass it on to Jesus if only Jesus would worship him. Again, Jesus answered with the scriptures.
Read Luke 4:8
A third time the devil tempted Jesus. This time, he told Jesus to throw himself from the highest point of the temple, because God would send the angels to protect Him from the fall. This time, the devil himself used scripture.
Read Luke 4:10-11
In this final exchange, we see that even the devil is well-versed in scripture. He used it to tempt Jesus. Jesus, however, was able to resist the temptation, and force the devil to flee with His own knowledge of the scriptures.
Each day, we are faced with temptations, many of which seem to have scriptural backing. Without the Word written on our hearts, quickened by the power of the Holy Spirit, it is often difficult to fight the tempter. We need to spend time in the scriptures each day, not only reading the words, but also making the Word a part of our being. Do not leave your bible gather dust on the shelf, open it daily and let Him, through His Word, become part of your routine.
Library A library is a collection of books, often so large that it would be difficult to read them all. A trip to the library means making a choice as to what book you'll read. But with so many to choose from, how do you select? The bible is also a library, a collection of books gathered that tells the story of God from the beginning of time to forever.
Read John 20:30-31
Where should you begin your daily routine of reading the scriptures? When selecting a book at the library, I might get a book recommended by a friend or some other source. I may also go into the library with a subject in mind, so you search the card catalogue for the proper book. Sometimes I just scan the shelves for a favorite author or a title that seems interesting.
The book I choose is dependent on the reason I'm searching for a book. Sometimes I need some reference material for work I need to accomplish. Sometimes I just want a book to read for pleasure. The library we call the Bible is no different. Sometimes we need to read the scriptures for a purpose, for wisdom, comfort, encouragement or edification.
A good place to begin a daily routine of scripture reading is with a daily devotional of some sort. There are many books available on the market, and daily readings available on the Internet. These readings help you to establish a habit of daily reading. Do not solely rely upon the writings of the author, though. Open your own Bible to the scriptures they use. Read and study the whole chapter in which the verses appear.
When we need something specific from our scripture reading, we can go into the Bible's card catalogue. This is called a Concordance. This list of words from the Bible helps you to find specific scriptures to fit your situation at the moment.
There are days when we need to just skim the pages until something stands out. In each method of choosing which scripture to read, always seek the counsel of the Holy Spirit through prayer before, during and after and let Him write the Word on your heart.
Critique When I attended the women's conference in November, I taught a class on obedience and the book of Esther. I taped the class, because several friends wanted to hear the teaching. Today, I heard a critique of the class. One friend, who is extremely straightforward, said, "The material was great, your voice is wonderful, but it was boring!" Then she asked if I understood why.
I knew exactly why it sounded boring. Even though I was well prepared, with a well-written study, I did not know material well enough. So rather than miss an important point, I basically read the lecture from beginning to end. The thing missing from the class was my personality, my excitement about the material I was teaching. This particular aspect of public speaking is something that comes with practice and experience. As I become well acquainted with the material, I will be able to let go of the notes and give more of myself to the class.
Read Joshua 1:8
What does your Christian life look like? Does the world see any excitement about your faith in God? Or are you just going through the motions, reciting a few bits of appropriate scripture, going to church on a Sunday morning, and being charitable occasionally? The only way to live the Christian life, as God calls us to live it, is to be well acquainted with His Word. To do that, we must be in the scriptures on a daily basis, in prayer constantly, and in fellowship with other Christians.
This week, as we make the final preparations for Christmas, read and reread the Christmas story. Ponder this great gift from God; know what He has done for you, so that you might live according to the gift He has given.
Christingle In 1747, a pastor named John de Watteville held a special service on Christmas Eve at his church. Each of the children was given a "Christingle" or "Christ-light." The service was designed to teach the children the true meaning of Christmas, the love of God, so that they would go out and share that love with the world. The children were encouraged to place their Christingle in the window of their house, to shine the light of Christ to all who pass by.
Each Christingle is made of a number of materials, which represent different aspects of God's love. The base is an orange, representing God's love in the creation of the world. There are four sticks poked into the orange, representing God's love in the four seasons of the year. Each stick holds some fruits and sweets. These represent God's love in providing the fruits of the earth. Wrapped around the orange is a red ribbon, which represents God's love in the death and resurrection of Jesus. A lighted candle represents God's love in sending Jesus, the Light of the World to be with us always.
Churches around England still hold Christingle Services, to honour the children and share the love of Christ with them. The churches use the service to support the Children's Society, an organization that helps children and young people around England and Wales.
Read Matthew 19:13-14
This Christmastime, as you enjoy special family time, remember that throughout the world there are children that will not have a happy Christmas for a variety of reasons. Take time, not only to pray for these children, but also to give of yourself so that they might know they are loved. Give as you are able; time, food, clothes, or toys. Most of all share the love and light of Christ, so that they might come to inherit the kingdom of heaven.
Support Many of the buildings around England were constructed before the pilgrims left for America, some were built one thousand years ago. On the outside of these buildings are often large metal plates, sometimes in the shape of an 'x' or letters. These letters are not strictly decorative, they play a vital role in the soundness of the building.
We were in a 13th century church. At the east end, high above the altar, a large crack has formed where the roof meets the wall. At the base of this crack, about halfway up the wall, is a metal rod, about one-inch in diameter, which spans from the north wall to the south wall. This rod does not look like much; it appears to be nothing more than a curtain rod. On the outside of the church, at either end of this rod, are those metal plates we see on the buildings.
That metal rod is the reason why that building has not yet collapsed.
Read Psalm 28:6-9
That church building looks much like today's church as a whole, with cracks that threaten the very integrity of Christ's body. Many congregations try to patch these cracks with some putty and paint, hoping that the building will continue to stand. They try to fix it on their own, not relying upon God to be their strength and support.
The small metal rod does not look like much to someone who does not understand. That which holds the church together -- the Father, Son and Holy Spirit -- does not look like much to the outside world. The church, no matter how well built it appears on the outside, will not stand without Him. He is our strength, our support. Praise be to God for His mercy.
Christmas lights We have been watching the Christmas episodes from "Home Improvement" this week. In each episode, Tim "the Toolman" Taylor competes with Doc Johnson for the best decorated house in the neighborhood. Tim will do anything to win this coveted prize. In the process, he manages to blow something up, fall off the roof or electrocute himself every time.
Throughout the countryside lights are springing up all over the houses. This practice is becoming nearly as popular here in England as it is in the United States. The homeowners want to share their Christmas spirit with the world. Many use stars and lighted nativity sets to share the story of Christ with their neighbors.
We are told in scripture that Jesus Christ is the Light of the World. He came so that the darkness would be defeated and death would no longer have a hold. The Christmas story is filled with lights. We hear of the star that led the magi to the stable. The shepherds were startled when the angel appeared and the glory of the Lord shone around them.
At this time of year in England, the days are extremely short and the sun is often obscured by cloud, those little lights on the houses helps cheer our mood and keeps us focused on the celebration to come. There is another kind of darkness in our world, one of sin and evil. As Christians, we have a hope that keeps us from despair as we look to the True Light, Jesus Christ, who was, is and is to come.
Read Revelation 21:22-23
Today, you will face some darkness in this world. It may be in the natural or the spiritual. It may affect your physical, emotional or spiritual body. Through all this, remember the joy of your salvation, and look to the Glory of God for the light to guide your path.
Reader Poetry has never been my favorite form of literature. I rarely seem to understand the intent of the writer, so am therefore confused about the meaning of the poem. I have a dear friend who writes poetry. One day he sent a poem, and jokingly told me to send back a report about the poem. As I read and studied this wonderful story in verse, I found myself interjecting my own thoughts and feelings into the poem. Through writing in response to that lovely gift of words, I learned a valuable lesson. When I apologized for making the poem my own, he told me that it is what is supposed to happen. Once the writer gives it away, it belongs to the reader.
I watched a documentary today on the writing of the Bible. At the end, the expert being interviewed said that in his opinion, "Who wrote the Bible is far less significant than who reads it. It is the reader who keeps it alive, especially those who read with their heart, soul and mind." He also commented that as long as there is a need to hear from God, the Bible would exist for those to read it.
Read Revelation 1:3
God, the master author, has given you His Word to read. As you read it, put yourself into the words, the stories, the love and mercy. Make it your own, so that it becomes a part of you and you become a part of the Word. It is through your life that God's Word remains alive for the world. As someone once said, "You may be the only Bible some people will ever read."
Blessed are you who read the scriptures. The world will be blessed through you as Jesus Christ comes alive in your day to day living.
Sinter Claes Father Christmas. Santa Claus. Throughout the world, children tonight are expecting a visit from some form of this character. Who is he? From whence does he come? And what does he really have to do with Christmas?
The western image of Santa Claus has become so commercialized that his true identity has been lost in the midst of red coats, flying reindeer and hearty laughter. In the east, St. Nicholas the patron saint of sailors, children and many places, is still honoured with dignity and respect.
Nicholas lived in the fourth century. Since the earliest biography was written in the sixth century, the information available about him is based on tradition. It is said that he was the bishop of Myra, in south west Asia. The governor of Myra condemned three innocent men to death because of a bribe he received. Nicholas stepped in and stopped the executions, convincing the governor to confess his sin.
It is said that Nicholas was imprisoned for his Christianity during the reign of the Emperor Diocletian, but was released when Constantine accepted Christianity as the religion of the Roman Empire. Stories from the life of Nicholas include the saving of children and sailors from tragedy.
His human remains were buried Myra, and his shrine was a place of pilgrimage until 1087, when merchant sailors from Italy stole the remains and took them to Bari, where they remain today. The Basilica of St. Nicola is still a popular pilgrimage centre.
St. Nicholas was transformed during the Protestant Reformation to Sinter Claes, a benevolent magician. That tradition spread around Europe, and was taken to the New World by Dutch Protestant settlers. In the United States and England, he became the patron saint of Christmas, which was regarded as a festival of the family and children.
Over the years his image has changed, and we have forgotten the real St. Nicholas. He was a man of God, who helped many people through tragedy. One story from his life says that he gave bags of gold coin to children in need. It is this story which is the basis of the gift giving tradition of Santa Claus.
Read 3 John 1:11
Many Christians would prefer that Santa Claus be removed from the Christmas celebration. Rather, let us remember St. Nicholas, a man of God whose just and right actions should be emulated in our lives.
Ordinary Zechariah was a priest who had a wife named Elizabeth. They were well along in years and childless. An angel of the Lord appeared to Zechariah and told him that his wife would bear a child who would bring many to repentance and prepare the people for the coming of the Lord. Ordinary people called to an extraordinary task.
Mary was a young virgin, betrothed to Joseph, a carpenter. Angels of the Lord appeared before these two people, and instructed them in the upcoming birth of their child. The child is to be named Jesus, and will be the salvation of Israel. Ordinary people called to an extraordinary task.
There were shepherds in a field, tending their sheep. An angel of the Lord appeared before them and told them of the birth of a child in Bethlehem, the Christ child. The shepherds ran to Bethlehem and saw the child, then spread the word of what they saw. Ordinary people called to an extraordinary task.
There were wise men from the East, following a star, which told of the birth of a new king. They found the young king, wrapped in clothes and lying in a manger in a stable, and they worshipped Him. An angel of the Lord appeared before them and told them of the doom to the child should King Herod find Him, so they went home by a different route. Ordinary people called to an extraordinary task.
There was a man in Jerusalem called Simon. He was in the temple when this child was brought for circumcision. The Lord promised that Simon would see the salvation of Israel before his death. When the child Jesus was brought before him, Simon praised God, saying that he could depart in peace because he had seen salvation. An ordinary man called to an extraordinary task.
Read John 1:14
There was nothing extraordinary surrounding the birth of our Savior; a simple stable, a simple manger, and ordinary people called to trust in the Word of the Lord. Yet, this was the way God chose to come into the world and make His dwelling among us.
God still comes quietly into this world, born in the hearts of believers, His beloved children. When you consider yourself to be too ordinary to be an heir to a Kingdom, remember that God chose the ordinary to do the extraordinary, and He chose you to be His child.
The Aftermath It took months of preparations. We went shopping in every store, searching for the perfect gifts. We cleaned and decorated the house. We spent hours wrapping the presents, sending the cards, and preparing the food. Now it is over. All that is left are some scraps of paper on the floor and a few empty glasses.
The Christ child has been born in Bethlehem. For a brief moment the world stopped to celebrate. Now, the world breathes a sigh of relief because the hectic pace of holiday parties and responsibilities is winding down. The focus is turning to cleaning up the aftermath, shopping the 'After Christmas' sales, and getting on with a normal routine once again.
For a brief moment, we focused on God. Now, we have turned back to the world, focusing upon our worldly existence. In a few days, we'll forget about the joy of the birth, and begin groaning about the bills that we accumulated shopping for presents. We will put away the decorations and forget the true gift of Christmas. We'll weigh ourselves and mourn over the pounds that have been added as we ate good food over the season, but we will forget the spiritual food, which was given to nourish our souls.
Read 2 Corinthians 5:1-5
Do not lose the Christ in the aftermath of Christmas. Remember that the story of Christ does not end with His birth, or His death. There is no end, because we are guaranteed life in Him.
Stars The children received a telescope for Christmas. We will spend many joyful evenings out gazing at the heavenly bodies. The sun, stars and moon have long been watched and charted, to follow the passing of the seasons, as well as for special signs. The Chinese have been charting the movement of the heavens for many millennium, and have recorded data about comets, eclipses, and planetary conjunction.
Modern astronomers now have sophisticated computer programs, which help them chart the course of the heavens back to the earliest days. The Chinese records have verified their findings. The research has shown three celestial phenomenon that would have occurred at the time of Jesus' birth. In 7 BC, a three-planet conjunction occurred that appeared as an especially bright light in the sky. Again, in 6 BC, a similar but less dramatic conjunction occurred. Finally, in the spring of 5 BC, a comet roared through the sky for 90 days from east to west.
Read Matthew 2:1-2
The wise men did not set out on a dangerous journey of many miles simply because they saw a star. They were well familiar with ancient prophecy foretelling of the birth of the new king. Then when the heavens showed the signs, they could be certain the time was right. They followed His star, found Him and worshipped Him.
We hear in the scriptures of many signs that will appear at the end of the age. The scriptures also warn us not to be deceived by false Christs and false prophets. Jesus tells us that these things must happen and that we should watch and be ready.
Through it all, remember that we do not have to follow a star to find Him, for He is the Morning Star. Keep watch, and keep your eyes on Jesus.
Innocents In Egypt, three thousand five hundred or so years ago, lived a group of people called Hebrews who were blessed by God. Pharaoh feared the number and power of the Hebrews, so he ordered the male children to be killed. One young child was saved from this fate and rose to deliver the Hebrews out of bondage. His name was Moses.
In Bethlehem two thousand years ago, a child was born. King Herod feared the birth of this child because the stars and signs showed that he was born to be king of the Jews. Herod ordered the male children to be killed. One young child was saved from this fate and rose to deliver the world out of the bondage of sin. His name was Jesus.
Once again, we live in a time when children are being killed because of the fear and selfishness of man. Abortion, abuse and gangs are destroying innocent children every day. Some of these children die physically, but many die emotionally and spiritually.
Read Proverbs 6:16-19
This day, in many churches, the children killed by Herod will be remembered in a special service to honour the Holy Innocents. Today, let us also remember the innocents throughout the ages who have died, physically, emotionally and spiritually, due to the vices of man.
Even more so, I pray that God will kill the vices in us, and strengthen us by His grace, that we might be able to protect the children. Perhaps one young child will be saved from some fate to rise to be a son of the Living God, to serve Him and become a blessing to the world.
Promise Buy our product and you will have the happiest kids, the whitest teeth, or the cleanest clothing. Our product provides the fastest connection, the most reliable service or the cheapest price. With our product, you will be more popular, more beautiful or more intelligent. Every ten minutes on our television sets, we are bombarded by promises.
A promise is defined in Webster's as, "an assurance that one will or will not do something." Companies around the world recognize the incredible power of a promise to today's consumers. They spend billions of dollars every year producing and airing commercials that will attract the greatest number of people to purchase their product. Unfortunately, these promises often go unfulfilled.
We have become so conditioned to the probability that promises will be broken, that we take, and make, them lightly. Even a promise as important as marriage is often entered into with the understanding, "If it doesn't work, we can get a divorce."
There is one who does not take His promises lightly. Eight days after the birth of Jesus, Mary and Joseph took Him to the temple to present Him to the Lord. Waiting there, with the Holy Spirit upon him, was a man named Simeon. God had promised him that he would see the coming of the Messiah. When Simeon took Jesus in his arms, to circumcise Him according to the Law of Moses he praised God.
Read Luke 2:29-32
God has made many promises. He promised Noah and the world that He would no longer destroy the whole world by water. He promised Abraham that he would be the father of many nations. He promised David that his kingdom would rule forever. This final promise was fulfilled in Christ Jesus, born from the line of David, and whose birth, death and resurrection has made those who believe in Him heirs to the Kingdom of God.
The world takes promises lightly, but God does not. We can be assured that whatever He has promised, He will fulfill. Thanks be to God.
Childhood The bible does not go into any detail about the childhood of Jesus Christ. We hear of His birth and the warning to Joseph to take Him to Egypt. We know that after King Herods death, Joseph is told in a dream by an angel to return to their home.
Tradition remembers Jesus as the perfect child, who did not cry when He awoke and who was always obedient to His father and mother. There are several stories in non-canonical writings that talk of the boy Jesus acting as a bully, testing His powers.
There are several reasons for this lack of information. The writers did not know Jesus as a child. His disciples did not come to know Him until after He was a grown man. There may have been stories from the people in His hometown, but they did not accept Him, so many of those stories are unreliable. It is also likely that the writers did not care about Jesus as a child. What mattered to them was what He did for Israel as an adult.
There is one thing we know from scriptures about the boy Jesus. He knew, from a very early age, about His relationship with God. In the Gospel according to St. Luke, we hear the story of a trip to Jerusalem for Jesus and His parents. It was His twelfth year and they went to Jerusalem for the Feast of Passover. There was some confusion as they left to go home. After a day of travel, Mary and Joseph discovered Jesus was not with them. They returned to Jerusalem and searched from Jesus. They found Him in the temple courts, listening and asking questions. All who heard Him were astonished. Mary asked how Jesus could treat them in such a way, causing them to search for Him.
Read Luke 2:49-50
Even at such an early age, Jesus had an understanding about God and their unique relationship. As an adult, Jesus always welcomed the children, and He tells us that we must come to God as little children, with innocence and trust that has not been destroyed by the cynicism of the world. In the world today, there are many young people who have the assurance of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Let us pray for revival to continue to break out in the hearts and souls of our youth.
Beacon In the ancient days, messengers were sent with information. They sometimes traveled by horse or some sort of horse drawn cart, but most often they traveled by foot. It could take days, even weeks, to get a message from one place to another. When something vital happened in the kingdom, and a messenger was dispatched, he would travel from one village to another spreading the news.
Each village had a beacon. A fire would be lit in the beacon to announce the messenger, so that the next village would be prepared for him. They would need to prepare for the message, as well as prepare hospitality for the messenger. The beacon was not the message or the messenger, but it told of its coming.
There was a man named John who was called by God to be a beacon for our Lord Jesus Christ. He came to prepare for the people for the coming of the Lord. He was not the message or the messenger.
Read Luke 3:4-6
Several of these beacons used in England for generations still exist. As a way to bring in the year 2000, these beacons are going to be lit for the first time in many years. A small village near our home has a beacon that is at least 500 years old. It is a metal cage on a tall pole. This beacon will be filled with wood or peat and set aflame, to signal the coming of this new age.
John was a beacon for Jesus Christ 2000 years ago. We, too, are called by God to be a witness to the message of Jesus Christ. As a new day dawns, be a beacon and be a witness to His Glory.