Missional Christmas

For those not doing the Advent Journal with us, I wanted to give you a taste of what we are reading. Les wrote today’s devotion and here is one of the illustrations he used.
I heard about a mom and kids who begged their husband
and dad to join them for the Christmas Eve service, but
he wasn’t a churchgoer for 51 other weeks in the year,
and he didn’t see the need to make the week of December
25th an exception. No, he would stay home on the snowy
Christmas Eve in New England and keep the fire going.
The man was watching It’s a Wonderful Life for the
gazillionth time, when he heard a thump on the window.
A few seconds later, there was another thump. He
walked to the window to discover that birds were flying
into the window in an effort to escape the cold and the
wind outside.
The man’s heart went out to the desperate creatures, so
he ran to the barn, opened the door, and turned the light
on, hoping they would fly to shelter, but they didn’t
respond.
The man ran over to the birds and began to yell and
wave his arms, hoping to guide them toward the barn
and into safety, but his actions only seemed to cause them
to panic.
The frustrated would-be savior thought to himself, “If
only I could get through to them! If only I spoke their
language. If I could be a bird, just for a few seconds, I
could save them. . .”
At that thought, the man stopped dead in his tracks. Why
hadn’t he seen it before? He quickly checked his watch.
Maybe it wasn’t too late. He ran inside the house,
grabbed the keys to his truck, and drove off into the night
toward the church, where an unsuspecting family was
getting ready to receive their best Christmas present ever.
There’s an old Christmas song that reads,
“Little Baby in a manger, I love you. Coming down to earth a
stranger, I love you. Wise men saw the star and answered, ‘I
love you.’ Little baby in a manger, I love you.”
And that baby grew up to be a man—a perfect
man—the Son of God. He loved us enough to put
skin on, come to this earth, live a selfless life, die a
sacrificial death for our sins, be raised from the
dead, eventually to go back to His Father and
prepare a place for all who will trust and follow
Him. – LH

Hold on

Romans 8 is such a great reminder of the hope we have as children of God. 8:18 “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. ” You may be suffering here on earth, but it is only for a time if you are a child of God. In days to come Jesus will come again and take us home! There will be no sin, sickness, sorry or pain. Praise the Lamb! Until then remember 8:28 “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” ALL THINGS! Whatever your struggle, challenge, or heartbreak it may not be good, but it works together for your good. Last but certainly not least, 8:37 “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. ” Press on sweet friend, the best truly is yet to come.

What a Mess

“What a mess!” That is what the electrician said as he walked through the house checking out the work that was to be done. He tried to follow a wire from one end to the other and found what looked like spider webs of wire tangled together. He found places where wires had been twisted together with a plastic cap holding them together. He found junction boxes crammed with more wires than should have been in them. They began pulling the jumbles of wire down and dismantling junction boxes in an effort to rewire and correct what had been at 2 additions to what had been the original house. It was almost like watching a treasure hunt as one electrician would say to the other where does that go? Or have you seen where this goes to? Other times they were looking outside the house, under it, or in the attic for leads to where a wire would go. When all of the wire was finally detached from the house wire covered the floor and looked like a puzzle or chaos.
Over and over the men would say, “I am sorry for making such a mess.” They would take each wire and roll it up for easier removal. Years of dirt and dust covered the encased wire. The Chinese sheet rock had discolored and affected some. I just kept thinking, “Father, thank you for letting us get this straightened out before we moved in. Thank you for revealing the problems so they could be fixed without tearing the walls down again. Thank you for bringing men to this project who have been inspectors and know how to do it right.”
What was once a mess will soon be made right and all of the electricity functioning properly. No more will we have switches that serve no purpose or outlets that don’t work.
Do you feel like your life is somewhat of a mess? Are there parts of your life that is out of hand or just doesn’t work anymore? Maybe it is time to spend time with the Father and allow Him to do a total system over hall. Ask Him to check each and every relationship in your life to see does it connect you will a deeper relationship with Jesus or pull you away. Ask Him to check your basic foundations of faith. Are they grounded in God’s word or traditions from your family or church? Ask Him to check your junction boxes of contact with Him. Have you rested on what God did in your life yesterday or even years ago instead of having a fresh encounter with Him? Spend time in prayer asking Him for a fresh connection with Him. Then allow Him to wrap up anything that wasn’t of Him. Have Him untangle relationships or friendships that may have gotten “bent out of shape”. Give Him free reign to rewire you in any way that brings Him glory. He is the most trustworthy project manager you will ever depend on.

Life Can Change Quickly

Life can change in a matter of minutes. I woke up this morning to find out a friend had lost a lake house that she and her husband had built. He died a few years ago and recently she sold her home and moved into a mother in law’s sweet at her dear daughter’s home. She had reasoned that keeping up two places was just too much so she would keep the lake house so the family could gather there in the summer and on holidays as they have for years. She chose to move many of her treasures like pictures and special memorabilia to the lake house for safe keeping since they would not fit in the small apartment.
Early this morning she received a call that changed everything. Apparently a fire had started on the back deck. The house was engulfed in flames immediately with the dry weather and nothing had been saved. We drove up to the lake this morning early to be with my friend and try to comfort her. As we drove up she was heaving with tears. Our hearts were breaking too and tears filled my eyes. As I held her and she just wept. There was nothing that could console until God placed verses from His word on my heart and I began to speak the verses He gave to me. Soon the sobs subsided and she was able to calm her emotions. What nothing else could do His word was the comfort.
The silver lining if there can be one when everything is charred was that they found a few special things. A stone that was engraved in remembrance of her husband was a precious treasure. The volunteer firefighter who was like family to her dug through the smoldering soot to pull out a hand full of pictures that were seared around the edges. A picture of her wedding day, a few pictures from her childhood and a picture taken with her daughter were burned but salvageable. A few pipes of a wind chime given to her when her husband died were among the treasures.
God reminded me today that we are to hold things loosely. The only thing eternal is our relationship with God and others who claim Him as Savior. He also reminded me that He is there even in the darkest experiences and He cares about us leaving a few treasures along the way. I was reminded of the value of family and friends when your darkest days come. And most of all His Word can bring peace when nothing else can suffice.
My sweet friend is learning to praise Him in the dark and she is being a bright light for Him. Please join me in praying for my friend and ask the Father to show her the next steps.

Surprises Along the Way

14595733_10154613060158077_1928024881527030668_nIn renovating the house there have been many surprises along the way. Some have been bad like the stone on the front having to be removed, but some have been very good. Yesterday as the electricians were wiring the house again they hooked power back up to the lights in the pool. We had no idea if the lights would work or if they too would be one more things that would need a repair. When the switch was flipped, Woo Hoo! We had light!!! We have celebrated and rejoiced.
Another of the big celebrations was the fence. We knew we wanted to fence the property so we could bring the horses home. Les priced the fencing and it was going to cost a small fortune to buy the materials for a three board fence. We prayed about having wisdom to know where to look. Les found a fence in a city and hour and a half away and talked with the man about selling us the fence he was taking down. We got it and a barn for much less than just the materials for the fence would be. Some men went and took the fence down then brought it to our land. Les hired a couple of amazing men and once again God surprised us with a beautiful fence that we will enjoy for years to come.
Some things we have had to learn in our journey is that God’s timing is always perfect. As we have waited and watched, God has 14910337_10154613061708077_8095449829743578835_ndelivered. If we had been in a hurry some of the great things would have been missed. His timing in people wanting to sell or even the right contractors to do work has been imperative.
Having eyes open to what is around you is has also been a game changer. Though we have a contractor who is subbing the 14606535_10154613061143077_4190211840958387283_nrenovations out, Les has been proactive in finding materials and things we need at a good price. We have laughed more than once that completing this house has been a team project. Isn’t that what God wants for us spiritually too? He puts us together as a team or a body to bring about His plans and design. When you work together everyone gets to share in the victories. We are ready for the party to begin!

It’s All In What You See

Recently one of our friends came to see the house. We have been a little discouraged because in the last 3 weeks there has not been a whole lot of work taking place on the house that is evident to the eye. When our friend had walked through the entire property she turned around and said, “When others see shepherd boy, God sees a King.” She was referring to that bible story of David who would become one of the greatest Kings in Israel’s history. Many people saw him as just a shepherd boy. He was not the biggest of his brothers, smartest, or even the most handsome. He was God’s pick!
Our friend said “I see how God is going to use this place in mighty ways.” I almost wanted to cry. We have been so near to the project daily that our hearts have at times been discouraged. We want it all completed and yet we know that time is the gift God has given us to see each part of the house done cost effectively and yet with excellence. Every step we can come away thanking God that He has revealed major problems that had been covered up. Had they not been discovered they could have cost thousands in years to come to replace. While the house is to the stud it is easier to see these problems and yet we are weary of finding yet another challenge.
Isn’t that how it is in our personal lives as well though. Deep underneath what we want people to see, God sees not just our imperfection and sinful hearts, but he also sees the potential for what we will one day be. Glory to God! He sees a person clean before Him because of His Son. One who walks with Him and knows and does His bidding, even if we are not quite there yet. Oh how my heart thrills to know that where others see me less than, God sees me as filled with potential and forgiven in His eyes.
Ask the Father today to help you see yourself as He sees you. Then walk in what you know God wants you to be. Others may see a less than, but He sees you as His child, precious to Him and highly favored!

Matthew 8:1-4; 9:1-17; 12:1-21. Mark 1:40-3:21; Luke 5:12-6:19. Mark 3:1-6:

I can’t imagine what it was like to hear Jesus in person here on the earth. His wisdom was so evident that the most schooled in the land were impressed and yet so many did not believe. They were more concerned about the customs and rituals of their church than seeing God’s power displayed through His Son. This is how the gospel writer Mark put it. 3:4 “And he said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. 5And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored.” Jesus was angered and grieved at their hard heartedness. Have you found yourself at that same place? Have you tried to love like Jesus does and share your faith in Him and those you love still did not get it? It is hard not to get discouraged, but look how Jesus handled it. It did the right thing even when they did not believe. He continued to do the Father’s work. What a wonderful reminder for us as well. Keep doing what God has called you to do. Hopefully in time the gospel message will penetrate even the hardest of hearts.

Matthew 4:1-22; Mark 1:12-20; Luke 4:1-30; 5:1-11; John 1:35-2:12; Matthew 13:54-58; Mark 6:1-6:

Do you feel ready for all God wants to do through you? If your answer is no you are in good company. Even Jesus withdrew into the wilderness for 40 days of fasting before His public ministry began. I wonder what the conversations with God were like. Did He miss His Father and the sweet times of fellowship they had? Did He find great frustration in the limitations of His physical body. To be infinite and yet choose a finite body must have been challenging! Whatever they conversed about, Jesus emerged from His solitude ready for battle and it met Him before He got out of the wilderness. Satan too knew the finiteness Jesus had chosen and challenged Him with hunger, power, pride and prestige. Satan certainly knows what makes most humans tick. Jesus stood ready fighting back with God’s word.
What a great reminder to me that time alone with the Father is not a good suggestion, it is mandatory to face the challenges our physical limitations represent. If the divine needed preparation time, so do we! I am also reminded that during those solitude times prayer and scripture are an integral part. Both allow us to communicate with the Father as He prepares us for what is ahead. Last but certainly not least I am reminded that Satan is waiting to sift me and challenge me at any weakness he can find. It is only God’s word and knowing it that will fight the flaming arrows he will throw. The end result will hopefully be as it was with Jesus, Satan will withdraw waiting for another opportunity. May we all know the power of the Spirit that Jesus knew and be prepared.

Cement Pond

If you ever watched the Beverly Hillbillies, you probably remember Granny talking about the “cement pond”. The “pond” was a beautiful clear blue pool that was the setting of many of their adventures. When we bought our house it too had a “cement pond”. The problem with ours is that it looked like a real pond or swamp. The first time we looked in it we could see about six inches deep and it had swimming critters in it! It had sat for two years with nothing done. It had been covered at one time, but the cover had disintegrated and now some floated and some had sank. Water weights had held it down and a few remained on the surface, but others had fallen in and submerged or partially floated. When we removed the first water weight from the pool after being half submerged, something jumped at us and I screamed! We eventually got a pump and began to remove the algae and critter infested water. AS we got to the bottom, sludge remained and had to be shoveled out. We pressure washed the surfaces then had an acid wash applied to rid it of any bacteria or infestation. Then we sealed the pool with a coating. (the sealant was $200 per gallon so it must be liquid gold)

poolbefore

The sealant left the pool clean white and was ready for the top coat of paint. You will never see the sealant we used because it was covered the next day with a beautiful blue top coat, but it plays a valuable roll. It sealed the pool from any minor cracks and it smoothed the rough surface of the concrete. The liquid sealant protects from moisture getting into the pool wall as well.poolafter

In our spiritual lives we have a seal as well. He is called the Holy Spirit. He is described in detail in John chapter 14. He was given when Jesus was taken into heaven, and He comes into the heart of believers at the point of salvation. He is also described as The Helper, Guide, and He leads us into all Truth. He only speaks what He hears from the Father. Ephesians tells us we are sealed with the Spirit until the day of redemption when Jesus comes back to take those who believe home to be with Him. Wow! That is encouraging. No matter what comes in our world we can know His abiding presence! Just like the pool, He seals all our cracked and broken places and prepares us for what is ahead. He comforts, directs, encourages and so much more. We will never see the Holy Spirit in person just as you will not see the sealant for the pool, but you can definitely see the affect He has. The affects are found in Galatians 5:22-23. They are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control. The more we listen to the Spirit’s guidance and choose to follow His instruction the more we will see the effects of the Spirit on our life.

In the near future we will fill the pool with fresh water and we too will have a beautiful “cement pond”. It will be safe from minor cracks and will be smoother on tender feet. Best of all it will not have critters!

Matthew 2, Luke 2:39-52

Did you see how many times Joseph was led by a dream? God spoke very clearly to him and he led his family to obey. Very few Americans see dreams and visions from God, but in the Middle East there are many unbelievers who are seeing dreams. There have been many stories of people who saw a dream of Jesus and were told where to go and hear about Him. They are led to other believers, missionaries, and even churches that they would not otherwise know. I revel in the stories of those who have found Jesus while obeying a dream. While we were in the Middle East last year we heard for ourselves about those who had followed a dream and the pay off was their involvement in a Evangelical church. To my knowledge they had not professed Christ as Lord yet, but they were attending services regularly searching for this Shepherd who instructed them there was peace by the waters. Peace can only be found in the Shepherd. Please join me in praying that many more will have dreams and visions and that they will come to The Shepherd and find Him sufficient for their every need.