Monthly Archives: November 2017

I Heard The Bells

Throwback Thursday is a new feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other writing ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.

On April 8, 1966, the Time magazine cover asked, “Is God Dead?” In a world where we have a telescope in space looking to the far reaches of the universe and using the Hadron Collider to try to find the “God particle”, many people wonder if there is a need for God in order to explain the creation of the universe and our existence. They see God only as an uneducated person’s explanation of the universe instead of a deity involved in our lives.

When we reduce God to just an explanation for creation, we allow Him to be seen as of no use today and dead to society. When bad things happen in our culture, people always ask, “Where is God? Why did He allow that to happen?” But when we fail to put logs on a fire, we don’t ask, “Where is the heat? Why are we being allowed to freeze?” We can’t kick God out of our culture, schools, and government then ask where He is when bad things happen.

He sent His Son into the world to bring life and light into our darkness. John 1:4-5 says, “The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it” (NLT). He was sent to right the wrongs of sin and to chase away the darkness that it brought. The star above the stable was representative of what He was doing. He was sending light into our world that will lead us to salvation.

There is a Christmas Carol called “I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day”. It’s very powerful and moving. Here’s the verse that stands out to me:

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:

“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;

The wrong shall fail, the right prevail

With peace on earth, good will to men.”

God is not dead, nor is He simply an explanation for our very being. He is a loving God who is involved in our daily lives. We were created with purpose and our lives have meaning. To think there is no God and that we are simply here by random chance is to say there is no right or wrong and that life has no meaning. God sent His Son to us to show us that we matter. He sent Him to show He cares about our struggles mentally, physically, and spiritually. He came to right the wrongs, to bring peace on earth, and goodwill to men.

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Anticipating The Savior

Do you remember how excited you were for Christmas when you were a kid? Did you shake the presents under the tree trying to guess what they were? Maybe you had an Advent calendar that counted down the days to Christmas. There was something special about this time of year when I was a child. There still is, but so many of us have lost it and are looking for it again.

I think I’ve figured out where it went. When you were a kid, you didn’t have to go into the attic to get the tree and the decorations out. You weren’t the one who had to put them all up. You didn’t have to fight for parking at the mall or stand in long lines to buy one gift. You didn’t have to stress about a budget or the food that you were going to have to prepare. In having to deal with all of this, many of us quit anticipating Christmas and started dreading it.

When Jesus was eight days old, he was taken to the temple to be dedicated to God. Luke 2:25 says, “At that time there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon. He was righteous and devout and was eagerly waiting for the Messiah to come and rescue Israel” (NLT). I can I shine Simeon each day, waiting in the temple, with the same anticipation that a child has for Christmas. He fulfilled his responsibilities daily, but he was still actively looking for and anticipating the Messiah.

If you find yourself looking for the magic of Christmas this year, go back to what it’s all about – anticipating the savior of the world. Even as we celebrate the first arrival of our savior, we need to be anticipating His return. Many of us spend a lifetime thinking, discussing and debating His first visit without anticipating His second coming. Just like Simeon, we need to keep an eye out for Jesus. We still have work to do, but there’s joy in the anticipation of a savior coming soon if you’re doing everything you’re supposed to do.

Photo by Greyson Joralemon on Unsplash

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Fixing Our Brokenness

My son is very interested in bells. He loves learning about them and watching them ring. When we went on vacation, he found a porcelain bell and wanted to get it. I tried to talk him into one of the metallic bells, but they weren’t as pretty. When we got home, my fears were confirmed as I unwrapped the porcelain bell. It was broken. I didn’t have the heart to tell him what had happened and I hoped he wouldn’t ask for it.

I went to the store and bought some gorilla glue. Before we left for school, I ran back into my room and glued it back together. When I got home, I went to check on it. The glue left a white streak all the way around it. When I tried to make it ring, it didn’t sound like it had. I was disappointed in my ability to try to put it back together. In my effort to fix it, I was hoping to make it as good as new, but I couldn’t.

Because of Adam and Eve’s sin, you and I are born broken. We spend a lifetime trying to compensate for our brokenness, and we do everything that we can to fix or cover up our brokenness. The problem with fixing things like brokenness is that we never return to our initial potential. We think we need to be fixed, but the truth is that we need to be healed. We need to be made whole, and only God can do that.

Isaiah 9:7 contains one of the most famous prophesies of Jesus. It says, “For a child has been born—for us! the gift of a son—for us! He’ll take over the running of the world. His names will be: Amazing Counselor, Strong God, Eternal Father, Prince of Wholeness. His ruling authority will grow, and there’ll be no limits to the wholeness he brings” (MSG). I love that God’s desire wasn’t to fix us. It was to make us whole. He knows that each of us are broken, and He sent His Son to bring the healing that we desperately need.

Photo by Daniel Tafjord on Unsplash

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God With Us

There’s a story of how the Cherokee would perform a right of passage for all boys before they were considered men. To become a man, the boy would be led into the woods at night. His father would sit him on a stump, blindfold Him and then leave him. He was told that he had to sit there all night, but he couldn’t make a sound. When he saw the sun rays through the blindfold, he could take it off and find his way back to camp.

It was tough to sit there silently. With their eyes covered, their sense of hearing was enhanced. They heard ever twig break as an animal stepped on it. They could hear the sounds of all the animals in the forest that were out at night. I’m sure they could hear the sound of their own heartbeat as they wondered whether they would be attacked. In the morning when he removed his blindfold, he would see that his father was sitting beside him the whole night watching over him.

I love that story because it’s so much like what our Heavenly Father does for us. We often feel blind and alone as we go through this world. Our fears can get the better of us if we aren’t careful, but God is right there with us through it all even though we can’t see Him. Isaiah 7:14 says, “All right then, the Lord himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’)” (NLT).

Immanuel is one of my favorite names for God. It gives me hope when I feel blindfolded as I go through this life. When I’m unsure of how things are going to turn out, and I feel vulnerable and open to attack, I remind myself that God is right there with me. He’s watching over me, protecting me and caring for me. He has never left my side no matter how dark the night has been. He remains true to His name Immanuel. He is God with us.

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Season Of Giving

When I was growing up, nearly every store had a person from the Salvation Army out front ringing a bell. They would be outside from Black Friday until Christmas. People would put their change in the bucket and the Salvation Army would use that to help the poor and needy. These days, you don’t see many of those bell ringers with buckets. It’s sad to me. If nothing else, they were a reminder that there are people who are poor among us and need help.

Jesus told us that there would always be poor people who needed help. He often encouraged people to help them. This time of year is particularly hard for people who live check to check. They now have to somehow find a way to buy a tree, presents and decoration. Christmas can be expensive. This season of giving, keep your eye open and your heart available to hear from God. He still cares for the poor and uses others to meet their needs.

Here are some Bible verses about helping those in need.

1. She extends a helping hand to the poor and opens her arms to the needy.

Proverbs 31:20 NLT

2. Give to the poor and you will never be in need. If you close your eyes to the poor, many people will curse you.

Proverbs 28:27 GNT

3. Do not neglect to do good, to contribute [to the needy of the church as an expression of fellowship], for such sacrifices are always pleasing to God.

HEBREWS 13:16 AMP

4. Mercy to the needy is a loan to GOD, and GOD pays back those loans in full.

Proverbs 19:17 MSG

5. But when you help a needy person, do it in such a way that even your closest friend will not know about it.

Matthew 6:3 GNB

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Give Thanks

Throwback Thursday is a new feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other writing ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.

When is the last time that you stopped what you were doing and truly thanked God for all he’s done for you? In I Thessalonians 5:18, it tells us that no matter what your circumstances may be, be thankful and give thanks. Even if nothing seems to be going your way right now, there is reason to give thanks.

Having a thankful heart is a mindset that you have to create. We are not naturally thankful creatures. You need to practice being thankful with others and with God. When you truly make being thankful a part of your life, you will find that your attitude, your outlook and your perspective will change for the better.

Here are some reasons I have found to give thanks.

1. For salvation

Each of us should be eternally grateful for what Jesus did on the cross for us. There is nothing that we could ever do to earn our way to Heaven. It is only because God loved us so much that He sent His son to die for our sins that we have that ability. I don’t have to spend my life hoping and trying to be good enough one day. The price for my sin was paid for by Jesus.

I love how 2 Corinthians 9:15 says it: “Now thanks be to God for His gift, precious beyond telling, His indescribable, inexpressible, free gift!” We have a very good reason to be thankful today. You do not have to spend eternity separated from God if receive His son into your life.

2. For God’s faithfulness

I’m thankful every day that God’s faithfulness doesn’t rely on my own faithfulness. 2 Timothy says that even if we are faithless or are untrue to Him, He remains faithful and true because He cannot deny Himself. What God has promised He will do, He will do no matter what.

One of my favorite promises in scripture is found in Philippians 4:19. I remind myself of this scripture when things aren’t going my way. It says that God will supply all of my needs according to His riches. I often want Him to supply all of my wants, but He has promised to take care of my needs. I have air in my lungs, a place to sleep and food to eat. That is something to be thankful for.

3. For what He has done

How many times have we prayed and asked God for something and He’s done it? Too many to count I’m sure. I often thank Him for the big things when He does them, but what about the little things? Have we thanked Him for a good night’s sleep, help on a test, safe travels or for food to eat? We constantly petition God in prayer and rarely thank Him.

When He healed the 10 lepers in Luke 17, only one came back to thank Him. Jesus asked him where the other 9 were. How was it that only one came back for something as big as a life giving healing? I want to live my life like that one who came back and worshipped Him and thanked Him.

I know it’s hard to do sometimes. I’ve been at points in my life where it seemed I had nothing to be thankful for. The truth is that I had a lot to be thankful for, but I wasn’t looking for it. Wherever you are today, stop and give thanks to God. You will find that it will change you when you live with a grateful heart.

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We Win

If you like baseball, then you probably watched the 2017 World Series between the Houston Astros and the Los Angeles Dodgers. It was one of the greatest series in the history of baseball. The two best teams this year went back and forth in the games and in the series. As a lifelong Astros fan, it was stressful to watch. At times, I was ready to throw in the towel. Some nights I couldn’t sleep because this series was so intense. The Astros ended up winning the series in game 7.

Last night, I was able to go to the world premier of the documentary that chronicles the series. It went game by game showing highlights and the drama that unfolded throughout the series. The crowd in the auditorium cheered each time we scored. It was an incredible experience. At one point, I heard the person behind me say, “I wish it had felt like this during the series. We’re only like this because we know how this is going to end.”

It reminded me of you and I in this life. We live through some stressful times and real life drama plays out in front of us every day. Some days we don’t want to watch. Others, we are so keyed up about things that we can’t sleep. Life can be very difficult to get through at times, but I have great news. (Spoiler Alert!) Revelation 20:10 says, “Then the devil, who had deceived them, was thrown into the fiery lake of burning sulfur, joining the beast and the false prophet. There they will be tormented day and night forever and ever” (NLT).

We win! We know how this is all going to end. Those who follow Christ will be victorious when all this is over. Will the drama still all unfold? Yes, but now you know that it’ll all be worth it. I know this won’t take away the pain or all the stress of what you’re facing, but if you keep in mind the final outcome, you can have hope to get through it. You can trust God with whatever you’re going through because in the end, we win.

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