Return to Me

Amos 3, 4: I had a conversation with a mom I dearly love last night about her wayward child. With tears in both of our eyes she talked of turning her child over to the Lord to do whatever He needed to do to bring this wayward one back to the Father. I told her I too had been praying that God would break the son’s strongholds. We both agreed that God will not allow a child of His to walk in the darkness when he is a Child of Light.

That is exactly what Amos was speaking of in chapter 4. Over and over God speaks of what He did to try to discipline His children and it follows with this refrain,

“yet you did not return to me”

It took total conquer of Israel and destruction of Jerusalem for the Children to acknowledge their need for God and to turn from their own ways of doing things to His way once again. Why, why do we push God until the harshest punishment is what it takes to help us return. Divorce, poor health, car crashes, financial ruin, all can be used by God to help us acknowledge how far we have run from Him.

Oh that we would be sensitive of heart and when we realize we have strayed that we would return. Marriages, homes, lives, business could all be saved if only we would return. Even now the Father beckons us to turn from sin. That is why He sent the Savior that He would pay for our sin and help us again to be right with God. May we all cherish this Christmas gift given so long ago but is still just as poignant today.

We Celebrate!

Revelation 5: Hopefully you have gotten a Christmas card or two in the mail. No card could bring better news than you find in Revelation 5:

9And they sang a new song, saying,
“Worthy are you to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation,
10 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”

We celebrate the baby born in Bethlehem! He alone is worthy to open the scroll because He alone was slain as a ransom for us. He is the reigning King and has made us a people for His own possession. We are a royal priesthood. We are people who belong to God. Glory to God in the Highest!! On earth peace, goodwill to all of us His favor rests on!

They Don’t Need Anything

Revelation 3:14-22: Christmas can be a very difficult time. One of the things that makes it so stressful is the emphasis we as Americans have put on gift giving. The financial stress is one thing, but then the stress of choosing the right gift for each person becomes overwhelming at times. Then you have the person who has everything and we say “They don’t need anything.”

I wonder if spiritually that is the way many of us feel. We go to church, do our Christian activity for the week, read our bibles occasionally, give, and we feel like we are doing okay. I wonder how God sees it though. Religious activity has never been the bench mark for Him of a person’s standing with Him. He told the church in Revelation 3 “I will you were hot or cold. Because you are neither I will spit you out of my mouth.” Yikes! They were just luke warm in their relationship with Him. Here is how they saw themselves.

Revelation 3:17 “For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.”

When we look at ourselves do we feel like what we say, “they don’t need anything.” Or do we see ourselves as Jesus saw that group of believers? “Luke warm, wretched, pitiable, poor, blind and naked” though we have almost everything money can buy to make us comfortable.

My prayer today is “Lord help me see me like You see me. Help me to long for a close relationship with you that is hot not cold and a joy to You! May my heart gift to you this Christmas be all of me not just the parts I think look good. Help me not get lost in religion activity but have a genuine encounter with You. In your Name I pray. Amen”

Life Giving Flow

John 15:1-8: Have you felt distant from the Lord lately? Maybe the hurriedness of the season or just the business of life has caused you to feel overwhelmed. You may just feel like the “Life” is just not there.

John 15:4 “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”

The verse tells us that apart from Him we can do nothing. As we abide in Him, God feeds us through His word, prayer, Christian fellowship, Pastors, teachers, and so much more. As we listen to His instruction we grow in our spiritual strength and the end result is that we are spiritually healthy.

A great picture of this may be a fresh cut Christmas tree. For the first few days and maybe even a couple of weeks it might look beautiful and smell so divine. But after a time of not being connected to its source of life it becomes brittle, dry, and its needles begin to release and make a huge mess. The tree lost its source of life when it was cut, but the end result was not really seen until it began to dry out.

Maybe that is why we may not realize until we are away from God that our time of separation from the Father has slowly dried us up. We miss the lushness of fellowship with Him. Business, life in general, even hurt can be a part of what cuts off the fellowship because it pulls us away from quality time spent with Him.

If you find yourself on the drier side today, it is not too late to start the life giving sap to flow again. Unlike our trees, the source of strength is still there for us. Repent. Turn back to the Father, admit your need for Him and His forgiveness. Then start again. A great way to do that is to get an advent book and do the devotions as you prepare for Christmas. Turn your focus back to why we are celebrating. Start the life giving flow again!

Filled with The Spirit

John 14:22-31: I love John 14 where Jesus knew His followers so well that He knew they would need someone to help them through the hard days to come. He knew His time had come and He had a job to do in giving His life for our sin, but He also knew that His disciples still needed someone who would teach them, guide them, speak into their lives.

John 14:26 “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”

Even with this promise the disciples found themselves anxious. How would they make it without their leader? Who would show the way? Would they be the next to die? Jesus sensed their anxieties and He said

John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”

Though these words were intended for Jesus’ disciples, they are also true for you and me. We don’t have to wait for this Helper to come. He is the Spirit of God that comes into our hearts when we trust in Jesus as Savior and Lord. He speaks to us as He did to the disciples of old teaching us, leading us, and reminding us of what we read in God’s word.

We also have a peace that the world cannot give. This peace comes from the knowledge that one day we will be with Jesus. The world is coming to an end and we have reservations on the winning side. So our days should be preparation days for the great celebration yet to come. Keeping our eyes on this will help us navigate wisely the waters we find ourselves in. Until He returns, may we all be found faithfully obedient to His will and at peace.

Someone Loves You

John 14:15-21: How do you know someone loves you? Words can tell you. Gifts can show you. Eye contact can help you believe. Jesus told us how He wanted us to display our love for Him.

John 14:15″If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”

It really is that simple. We act in a way that obeys what He has told us to do. Simple. lol. If we keep all of His commands it is far from simple. It can be rather challenging, but the end result is so worth it.

It not only speaks our love for Him, but it is also the path that keeps us from harm or danger. It is the path that treasures that money can’t buy. It leads to healthy marriages, homes, friendships. Loving the Lord and keeping His commands eventually will lead us to a forever home with Him!!!

As we express our love to Him keeping His commands we really are the winner because His love for us is put on display to the world around us. If there is one thing our world needs right now is LOVE! May we all be bearers of His Love!

Enduring

Job 23: Many times I shy away from the book of Job. Today it captured my heart because he speaks were many of us have been and maybe some are right now.

Job 23:8 “Behold, I go forward, but he is not there,
and backward, but I do not perceive him;
9 on the left hand when he is working, I do not behold him;
he turns to the right hand, but I do not see him.
10 But he knows the way that I take;
when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold.
11 My foot has held fast to his steps;
I have kept his way and have not turned aside.
12 I have not departed from the commandment of his lips;
I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my portion of food.”

There are just some times that we feel like we are doing all we know to do and yet we don’t see clearly the path He wants us to take. I have thought about this the last few days. Job was faithful and yet the cost to him in his testing was severe. Where do you run when these sad times come? What path do you take when you do not have a clear next step? Job was sitting in a disease ravaged body, having lost his children, his wealth and now his friends turned on him assuming that he was sinful. Yet Job is almost in disbelief thinking “You know me better than this. I love the Lord and worship Him.”

My heart goes out to many who right now are struggling. A single mom who always wars with financial struggles. I barely know her, but to read her updates on fb it breaks my heart. I call out to the Lord on her behalf begging Him to bless her and help her. I see others going through physical struggles. One friend has been through cancer and is still struggling from one doctor’s visit and surgery to the next. Over and over there are people longing to walk with God and yet sorrow meets them.

If these words describe you, hold on. You too are being tested like Job. I don’t have all of the answers of why. I do know this. If you will hold on you too will come out refined as gold. Keep your feet to His steps. Keep your heart undefiled. Job expressed heart ache and frustration, but his faith remained. I pray this for you my friend. Hold tight. Don’t give up. You too will find His strength to be enough. Until then, this friend is praying for you to know the right next step.

Loving Well

John 13:31-38: John records one of Jesus’ last commands to his followers before his own death and resurrection.

John 13: 34A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

As I have loved you! that is how we are to love one another. I find it easy to love people like I love a new outfit or even a snickers bar, but as He had loves them? He had just told them that He was going to die but that His death would make it possible for them to have eternal life with Him.

It is through sincere love that people are able to see that we are His disciple when we love like Him. The next few weeks will be unbelievably stressful for some due to financial strains, but there are so many things that are free and truly communicate love. Here is a quick list.

Words of encouragement
A smile
Listening as someone else speaks
Looking people in the eye and giving them your undivided attention
Praying for someone
Lending a helping hand

I know these things can’t be wrapped in a box, but they may be of more value than anything you could give the gift wrapped. Love people well! That is how they will know whose you are. It is also a gift back to the Father as you show Him how much you love and obey Him.

My Prayer for America this Christmas

Daniel 9: As we enter the Christmas season I can’t imagine a better way to start it than by praying for our country that is far from the Light. Daniel 9 is a great reminder of how one man stood in the gap for his country. This is my prayer for America today.

Daniel 9:4I prayed to the Lord my God and made confession, saying, “O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, 5we have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and rules.

9To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against him 10and have not obeyed the voice of the Lord our God by walking in his laws, which he set before us by his servants the prophets.

Lord please have mercy on our country. Please help us this Christmas season to see our own wickedness and turn. Help us long for the sweet milk of the Word. Please bring us your church together in unity of heart, mind and soul. Help us to be a pure bride before You. May the gift we bring to You this Christmas be a heart broken for our own sin and repentant of our choices. Please help us to have Your eyes to see the needs around us and be willing to respond with open hearts to Your will. We love you Lord and long to be right with You. In Jesus, the reason for this season’s name, Amen.

Be the Example

John 13:12-17: I have really enjoyed watching the Hallmark movies. Last night as I watched a commercial came on about a Kindness Agent. This is a program where children are a part of a club that does kind acts for others. Each child chose their agent name and then did random kind acts for others leaving their agent name. The end of the commercial said “be the example”. As we do what Jesus did, He set the example for us, but we set the example for those around us. When we serve others or do an act of kindness we are leaving an example for those who come behind us to follow. Jesus said it like this.

John 13:13You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. 14If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.

Washing the feet was the job of the lowest servant in the house. As people came into a home from journeying that day, their feet were filthy since they wore sandals and walked everywhere they went. The servant would take a towel and basin of water and wash the feet of those in the home. Jesus did this to His disciples to set the example that they were to serve others.

In the days to come we will have many opportunities to serve others. We can open a doors, speak a kind word, give generously. The opportunities are everywhere. As you do remember you are living up to the example Jesus left for you and leaving an example for others to follow. Be the right example for your children and those around you.