Tag Archives: encouragement

Children Of God

I think adoption is one of God’s greatest gifts to mankind. I have watched many of my friends adopt children and love them as if they birthed them. It gives hope and identity to children who are orphaned. Adoption doesn’t create a perfect family, it opens the doors for love to come in and heal. God has always looked out for the orphan and provided a way to bring them into a family. It’s a beautiful thing.

When sin entered the world, we became orphans ourselves. We lost our identity and our way, but God, in His great mercy, sent Jesus into the world to begin the adoption process. His birth signaled that God’s love for us was greater than our sin, and that He desired to bring us into His family. Spiritual adoption, just like physical adoption, gives the child all rights and privileges as if they were born into that family. You and I are officially children of the King of Kings. We are royal heirs thanks to adoption made possible by Jesus.

Here are some verses on being children of God.

1. When the time came to completion, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons…So you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.

Galatians 4:4-5, 7 HCSB

2. Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has become a child of God. And everyone who loves the Father loves his children, too.

1 John 5:1 NLT

3. You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your friends, hate your enemies.’ But now I tell you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may become the children of your Father in heaven. For he makes his sun to shine on bad and good people alike, and gives rain to those who do good and to those who do evil.

Matthew 5:43-45 GNT

4. So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children.

Romans 8:15-16 NLT

5. For you [who are born-again have been reborn from above–spiritually transformed, renewed, sanctified and] are all children of God [set apart for His purpose with full rights and privileges] through faith in Christ Jesus.

GALATIANS 3:26 AMP

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The Best Gift

One Christmas I was invited to a party. On the invitation, i saw the words “white elephant”. I got so excited, and my mind began to race about what piece of junk I own would be the funniest gift. I looked in my closet, in my room and in the garage. I finally found a piece of junk that I could get rid of and would be the talk of the party. I couldn’t wait to get there and play the game.

On the night of the party, I kept laughing to myself at the poor person who would open my gift. After we sat down and drew numbers, the game began. When the first person opened their gift, it was nice. I was confused. The next person went, and their gift was nice as well. Did these people not know what a white elephant was? I opened the email while I waited for my turn. I read the whole thing that said, “White elephant style with a $20 minimum gift.”

When the person opened my gift, the looked confused. There wasn’t laughter at all. They said, “Really?” Another person chimed in, “That’s all?” The hits said, “Maybe there’s a gift card in there.” Instead of bringing the best gift, I had brought the worst. I stayed silent as they asked who brought it. I was embarrassed and didn’t want to own up to it. It got me thinking about the wisemen and how they didn’t just bring their leftovers. They brought their best gift that fit for a king.

Matthew 2:11 says, “They entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh” (NLT). You and I may not have gold, frankincense or myrrh laying around, but we have giftings and talents we can offer the King. What are we offering Him? Is it our junk? Or is it our best gift? We will each present Him with something on judgement day. Let’s make sure we are giving God our best.

Photo by David Everett Strickler on Unsplash

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Nothing Is Impossible

The Christmas story is full of God doing the impossible. Mary became pregnant while she was still a virgin. Even as I type that, my mind thinks of how Impossible that was. Then, the fact that her fiancé stayed with her was a miracle. Can you imagine his predicament? He knew just how impossible it was for her to be pregnant, but he believed the angel just like Mary did. I’m sure he knew the prophesy Of God giving them a sign of a virgin conceiving.

Then, when it was time to give birth, finding a place to stay and have the baby proved impossible. They went from family member to family member, then from hotel to hotel looking for a place to stay. I’m sure they prayed for God to do the impossible and find them a place to stay. God answered their prayers in an odd way. His answer put them in a barn for the hotel rather than in the hotel itself. Nevertheless, God did the impossible.

God then placed a star in the sky where Jesus was born. Some kings from the east saw it, and left their kingdoms to come celebrate the birth of another king. There was no radio, no TV, no internet or anything else to tell them about this king. They simply followed a star. How many of us would drop everything we are doing to follow a star? Yet these men did, and 5hey were so sure that a king had been born that they brought gifts for Him.

Yes, the Christmas story is full of God doing the impossible. It’s His way of reminding you and i that there is nothing we face that He can’t resolve. The angel in Luke 1:37 said it best, “For there is nothing that God cannot do” (GNT). God is the same yesterday, today and forever. If He did the impossible back then, He’s still doing it today and will keep doing it tomorrow. I believe God delights in doing the impossible just to show us He hears us and loves us. Don’t be afraid to ask God to do the impossible. He’s pretty good at making it happen.

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Christmas Cards

Just the other day my son was asking why no one mails him anything. Each day he sees us open the mail. Most of the time what we are opening is bills, but this time of year, there are lots of Christmas cards. Each year there seem to be fewer and fewer cards, and each year the cards are saying less. When I was younger, each card had a hand written note. As I grew up, people started putting family newsletters inside. Now, it’s just the name of the family.

Yes, I’m lamenting about the current status of Christmas cards. Since the invention of email, personal letters in Christmas cards, and otherwise, have almost become extinct. Very few people write personal letters anymore. There’s something encouraging about a personal letter that you don’t get from an email or a signed card. Personal letters often bring joy to the recipient. I imagine that’s where the tradition of sending Christmas cards came from.

Much of the New Testament is really just personal letters sent by the apostles to encourage others. In Acts 15, the apostles sent a joint letter answering questions about how believers should behave. Verse 31 tells us, “When the people read it, they were filled with joy by the message of encouragement” (GNT). That’s what letters do. They fill people with joy and encouragement. No wonder my son wishes for mail.

2 Corinthians 3:2 says, “You yourselves are the letter we have, written on our hearts for everyone to know and read.” Each of our lives should be a personal letter to the world written by God. It should encourage others and bring them joy. Jesus was God’s love letter to us. His birth announced that God heard our cry to be joined with Him. Now, His Spirit lives in us and we are His love letter to the world. Make your letter personal and let it bring joy to all who read it.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

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White As Snow

Have you ever spilled bleach on your clothes? I have. I even did it on purpose one time. In the 90’s, stonewashed jeans were in style, and we couldn’t afford them. I decided I could stonewash a pair myself. I went to the driveway and poured bleach on my jeans. I then began to rub it in so I could get that faded look. It turned out nothing like i thought. They were the ugliest pants ever. To make sure I never tried that again, my mom made me wear those out in public.

Bleach is a pretty amazing product (if you know what you’re doing). It will take the color out of almost any fabric and make your whites brilliant. I’m not sure when it was invented, but I can tell you that they didn’t have it in Jesus’ day. On our trip to Israel, they showed us how they made wool yarn, and then showed us how they dyed it. Once they put the color into the wool, there was no getting it out.

Isaiah 1:18 says, “‘Come now, let’s settle this,’ says the Lord. ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool’” (NLT). The people understood the whiteness of wool and the redness of dyed wool. What they didn’t understand was how God could take something dyed and turn it back to its original color. God was saying He could do the impossible in an impossible way.

For over a thousand years, there was one way to get your sin covered up. It was through sacrificing a perfect lamb. God sent His only Son into the world, not to cover up our sins, but to bleach them. His blood would remove the stain of sin from our lives. An impossible task made possible by a baby born in Bethlehem. Christmas is the season of hope because with the birth of Jesus, there was hope of being reconciled to God. No matter how stained our lives are with sin, one drop of His blood will make it white as snow.

Photo by Brigitte Tohm on Unsplash

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Entertaining Unaware

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.

I don’t think the innkeeper ever gets enough credit at Christmas. Sure, we mention him in passing when reading Luke 2 for our plays, but no one ever really thinks about him. To me, he played a critical role in the birth of our Savior. He provided the setting for every nativity you’ve ever seen. Yet have you ever looked at a nativity and thought of him? I know the scene isn’t about him, but it wouldn’t look like that if it weren’t for him.

We know that Ceasar Augustus had called for a census. It’s not like the censuses we take today where government workers come to your house and ask you questions. Each family had to travel to the hometown of their ancestors. For Joseph, a descendent of David, that was Bethlehem where David grew up. It was an 80 mile trip that he and Mary had to walk or ride by donkey. Mary was obviously in her third trimester, and I’m sure they had to stop pretty often.

By the time the two of them arrived, the town was full. I’m sure they went to his family to try to stay with them. After having no luck with any of his family, they started going to the inns in the city, but quickly found out it was no better. Joseph must have been getting desperate. Mary could have been having contractions and he needed some place for his son to be born. As the sun set, he knew they were out of options. It could be that this particular innkeeper had compassion on them and offered shelter in the stable.

We really don’t know the details, but what we do know is that they ended up in his stable. This particular innkeeper thought differently than all the others in town. With no room in the inn, he offered them the only other place he had. He wasn’t going to turn a weary, pregnant woman away. I’m sure he had no idea that she was carrying his Messiah. I’m sure he didn’t know that his stable would become a hallowed sanctuary that millions would flock to in the future. We simply know that he offered what he had and it was more than enough to be the setting for the birth of the King of Kings.

It makes me wonder how many times I’ve not had time or room for people in my life. How many times have I been like the other innkeepers in Bethlehem? What if some of them were sent to me by God? I believe that God gives us daily opportunities to open up and let others into the inn of our lives, but too often we are too busy and are so full that we turn them away. I believe if we found even just a small space for them, we could change their world. Hebrews 13:2 says, “Do not forget or neglect or refuse to extend hospitality to strangers [in the brotherhood – being friendly, cordial, and gracious, sharing the comforts of your home and doing your part generously], for through it some have entertained angels without even knowing it (AMP).” The innkeeper entertained the Son of God unaware because he was open to helping others.

Photo by Jessica Ruscello on Unsplash

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Undercover Savior

Have you seen the TV show “Undercover Boss”? It’s where a CEO of a company creates a fake identity, changes how they look and goes to work at their own company as a regular worker. They hear things they wouldn’t hear if others knew they were the CEO, and they get a frontline perspective of what it’s like to work there. It’s usually very eye opening for the CEO who does it, and they are always glad they did it.

Inevitably, they run into people who either treat them well or treat them or others poorly. In one particular episode, the CEO ran into both. The one worker was kind to everyone, especially the customers. The other thought they were at war with the customers and had to win at all costs. At the end, the boss revealed himself. The one who treated others poorly was terrified when they found out. They no longer work there.

I tell you about this show because you and I are on it, but on a much grander scale. In Matthew 25, jesus told us about what the great reveal will be like. Verses 37-40 say, “Then those ‘sheep’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?’ Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me’” (MSG).

The people you and I come across each day could be the Undercover Savior. It’s up to each one of us to treat others with dignity and respect. It’s up to each one of us to offer a hand to those who are down. The Christmas season is the perfect time to help a needy family, watch a single mom’s kids while she shops, pay for someone’s groceries or to do something that relives the stress in their life. Jesus said that you’re not just doing it for that person. You’re doing it for and to Him.

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