The First New Year’s “Eve”

New year

It’s New Year’s Eve! Let’s get the party started…but before we do I have a thought that I need to follow through. Was the very first New Year’s Eve formed in regret? Perhaps I’m wrong, I’ve been so before; but when I began looking for a topic to blog on this morning I wanted to think on a biblical eve (as in the night before something happened) But where God took me was to the capital “E”  Eve and the thought that the very first New Year’s Eve celebration wasn’t really a celebration at all. But rather it was formed in regret… much the way many other modern day New Year’s Eve celebrations are formed when bad decisions effect a life time.

Genesis 3:1 ~ Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD GOD had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?

Just one question got that New Year’s Eve party started and Eve living her first day in the very first year. Prior to that she and her main man would have lived out eternity in the perfect world, but that decision began the time when life was counted in years. That thought gave new meaning to the word “eve” for me. We are on the brink of a new year. And it’s always a bitter sweet time, I’m sad about those things that I did not get accomplished in the year prior and excited about the potential for the coming New Year; and one thing for sure I don’t want to form 2015 in regret.

With the exception of one year, I have begun every year since salvation in a church service. The one year I missed was one of the saddest I’ve ever experienced (of course that was my own fault for allowing Satan to convince me of it). But none the less I determined that every year to follow would be spent in Christian fellowship if there was any way possible at all. And God has provided! Tonight for the second year in a row I’ll bring in the New Year at a “Teen Up All Night” event (spending at least 4 of the 12 hours asking myself, why did I do this? And the other 8 praising God!) At last year’s event 11 young people came to know the saving grace of Jesus Christ. Now that is a New Year without regret!

There will be many who unfortunately will wake up (or not) in great regret tomorrow. They’ll not know the saving grace of Jesus Christ or they’ll have turned their back on Him. What is important to remember is that we are all just one eve away from a broken relationship with Christ if we’re not on guard. Eve didn’t go to the garden to fall but she did indeed fall and because of it we all now face the very real day to day decisions of regret.  Some are small, some are huge! 2015 is filled with potential! I pray yours and mine is filled with better health and a closer walk with Christ!

A Map for the New Year

happy new yearEvery year I have the best of intentions of getting a boatload of things done and every year I watch that ship sail with far less cargo than intended. 2014 was no different… A few weeks ago it was my intention to get my Christmas cards out to friends and family, if you didn’t receive one, don’t feel slighted… neither did anyone else, with the exception of a few that were enclosed with gifts. Life gets crazy, but it’s really more about being off focus than busy.

This is my own verse for 2015 from the book of Ezekiel 11:19

And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh:

Once upon a time in the year of our Lord 1996, God gave me a new heart when He saved my soul. It changed the direction of my life from that very day and I began traveling the paths that the Lord had laid out, however I have on more than one occasion strayed from the path of His intended design and went off on my own journey; which always ended in disaster and found me crawling back to God’s path. Ezekiel’s verse, written long before God’s Son redeemed mankind, has a prophetic tone and a message for me (and perhaps you) that will lay the ground work for our 2015 journey. Within that verse I found a map…

Motives: What is our motives within the body of Christ? Do we seek to have one heart with the congregation or are we more concerned with the oneness of our own. In a world full of division, now is the time that they need to see the body of Christ working together. I love what I heard a few weeks ago regarding churches… “I decided I would stop following men and follow the bible, there’s too much religion in the other.” That’s not a direct quote, but the foundational truth is there. Billy Graham once said “The highest form of worship is the worship of unselfish Christian service. The greatest form of praise is the sound of consecrated feet seeking out the lost and helpless.” — That should be my motive every day in 2015.

Attitudes: That new spirit needs to be a full blown attitude check! I speak to my own, but perhaps I’m not alone. I often get so caught up in my own thoughts that I close my mind to someone else’s ideas. Everything Christ did upset the religious. It was new and different and so unlike anything they’d ever heard before. Nothing He did strayed from the foundation of the law, but it loosened the law’s tie, and put on a pair of work pants instead of a suit! We need to get busy working for the Kingdom of God instead of the formality of service. Amen?

Purpose: A purpose driven life should have God in the driver’s seat, but not as a chauffeured driven limo as if we’re some hotshot star, but more like the Amish that worked on my house a few years ago. They had a driver that dropped them off on the job site and they worked until He returned… That’s our purpose. Work until He returns, which could be very soon! That heart of flesh is one that feels… genuinely feels. A heart of compassion that realizes we are all sinners saved by Grace and in need of mercy.

Get your gear! And let’s do some serious traveling in 2015!!!

Christmas is not a Calendar date

january Christmas

I spent the greater portion of Christmas day at the Charleston Area Medical Center in ICU with my husband’s family as they spent the day with their mother who’s battling the fight of her life after a heart attack.  It was there we celebrated Christmas in the waiting room and shared a meal better than most people of the world could imagine. My sister-in-love Judy prepared and hauled to the hospital Thirtyone ® bags and coolers filled with the Ham and all the trimmings, topped off with the best peanut butter candy I’ve ever eaten in my life! It was almost as sweet as the fellowship with family. It’s cliché to say we take life for granted, and for the most part empty; it’s hard to understand what we have until we’re on the brink of losing it. From the looks of the shoppers and Facebook posts America looked to fare pretty well this Christmas.

You don’t have to spend Christmas day in an Intensive Care Unit to realize how blessed we are, but it doesn’t hurt. Most of the other patients in the area had visitors loving on them, stroking their brow and speaking words of kindness, but many laid alone as the medical staff tended to their physical needs but there was no time to take care of the emotional. I returned home late last night to be greeted by Izidora the Chihuahua, who didn’t know it was Christmas, she just knew she missed her people. Just a simple act of love as she spun around in circles and jumped up and down at my feet. I have a lot to learn about love…

I scrolled past posts on Facebook this morning trying to catch up with friends and family to see how they spent their Christmas and looking back at me were two of the most beautiful brown eyes ever from a child in the Philippines. She held in her little hands a box of food given to her by a missionary and I thought… I just about missed Christmas again. It’s not December 25, it’s January 1 through December 31.

It was in the box of goodies delivered by my sister in love, it was in the stroked brows and whispered “I love you’s”, it was in bowls of rice in the Philippines and in Izidora’s funny dance. It was in compassion for the convict, mercy for the addict and a coffee cup from the Bogg’s family who love me and allow me to be a part of their family antics! It was in a hug from church kid Connor, who tells me I’m his favorite, and then tells 30 others the same thing… but he means it! Christmas didn’t end yesterday, only the commercialized part.

I hope today you find a hidden Christmas gift, or you deliver one yourself. I’m heading back to Charleston… with that though in mind.

Matthew 10:42

And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward.

 

 

This Morning’s Gift

DAYChristmas is almost always a bitter sweet time. It’s a time of reminiscing that evokes either fondness or failures from the recesses of your mind. Although I try, I cannot live in my Ozzie and Harriett world and pretend that all is well all the time. I must concede to the fact that life is very real, and not always very fun. But the one thing that cannot be taken from me and puts joy in my soul in the hardest of times is the Christmas verse.

John 3:16

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

It’s why Jesus came as a Baby and died as a Lamb. The final sacrifice for us all. It’s the gift that I receive every morning when I awake and realize that God gave me the gift of another day. Who but God can do that?  Santa may have left you a gift worth thousands beneath your tree today, but he cannot give you the gift of another day. Somebody may have handmade you the sweetest gift, but it cannot compare with the gift of a new day that God gave you. That’s where I’m at this Christmas morning; standing in awe that God saw fit to do it again. Now… what am I going to do with it?

I have family all around me that are going through some very rough times. I have to ask myself, “What can I do with this day to help them through?” I can share the last part of that Christmas verse… the gift that never ends. Everlasting life. Regardless of how many days we’re given down here, the fact of the matter is if we know Jesus we will never run out of days. That’s what He did when He wrote that Christmas verse in the scriptures; He gave us one more day. And when that one is through, we’ll have one more day.  And when life ends down here, we’ll have one more day.

I don’t know what’s going on in Heaven today, but I know that those for whom I love, who have gone on before me and knew my Lord and Savior, are enjoying Christmas day. One more day. Only theirs is without heartache, sorrow or pain. No family squabbles and no regrets! Oh glory what a Christmas morning.

What are you going to do with the gift you were given this morning?

Are you giving your best gift?

best gift ever

As I read through a few chapters in Genesis this morning, I came across the lineage of Esau; and scattered among his sons was one by the name of Amalek; which triggered a memory of a sermon I once heard titled “Then came Amalek.”  That sermon was from the book of 1 Samuel, when Saul, who had been told to “utterly destroy” the Amalekites for what they had done to the children of Israel back in the book of Exodus. While traveling to the Promised Land, they had assumed they’d be safe traveling through Edom, because they too were the descendants of Abraham, but they soon discovered that family is not always a friend. I just covered a lot of Bible history in just a few sentences, and probably utterly confused you, but here in the book of Genesis we find the origin of those people as the grandchildren of Esau, battling twin brother of Jacob.

Esau married outside the chosen nation, (he married a Canaanite woman), several actually and disappointed his parents. His wives worshipped strange gods and raised his children up to do the same. They had no pride in their Israeli heritage, only disdain in the coming generations. But my point being, it all began with one son’s disobedience. But now we no longer concern ourselves with what tribe or nation a family may be from, but rather are you apart of the nation Heaven as a child of Jesus Christ? But family still matters…

I was blessed to be raised by Christian parents who molded me into the strange being that I am today through a few quirks of their own. My mother, a quite creative woman and my father who was musically talented both attributed to my talents but I also received of my father a lackadaisical attitude which gets me in trouble on a pretty regular basis, and of my mother I received the “I can do it by myself” gene, which is really funny because my Dad’s name was Gene! But the two of those combined makes my theme song “I can do it by myself, but I’ll do it later!”

Regardless of how you feel about your family, it still does not change the fact that you are a product of their making. But what you become productive in is still entirely up to you. Esau was a bitter boy because his brother had stolen his birthright and inheritance, but he did eventually forgive Jacob. However, his descendants picked up that bitter bone and carried it through generation after generation. Is that not crazy? What Esau forgave, the family didn’t forget.

It still happens today. It happens in my own family as I think about relatives who have hurt members of my family and I’ve shared those stories with my children who now don’t think very highly of those relatives either; and in the generations to come they probably won’t like the descendants of those aunts and uncles either but they really won’t know why.

Why do we do it? I’m sure if Esau had his life to live over again he’d have mended fences with Jacob before he left the first time. He likely wouldn’t have disobeyed his parents which caused generational conflicts that still affect us today. But Esau can’t undo the past. We however, who are still alive, still have the opportunity to change the future of our families by changing our attitudes toward the past and letting it go. Really letting it go. Not just letting it go until we’re frustrated again and feel the need to relive the anger.

Christmas is a good time to give the gift of restoration. Do you have someone in your family that you would just as soon forget… well remember them. Pray for them and encourage yourself in the story of the Amalekites. Which would have changed the world if someone had gotten it right earlier. You have generations to consider and why on earth would you want them to carry a bitter seed forward that will grow the same heartache you carry.

I don’t know who this message is for…certainly for myself, but maybe you too. I’d love to hear from you! Share your story with me and let’s start Christmas off with the gift worth giving – forgiveness!

Have I got a story for you!

Chick Manger Scene

And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

Luke 2:6-7 KJV

Barely a woman by today’s standards, Mary had just been given a harsh reality in life, and I’m not speaking of the birth, although that would certainly have been one too! But the lesson that I refer to this morning is “not everyone is your friend, and life’s not always fair.” For the past nine months she had been a willing vessel to carry the Redeemer of all mankind. And for that she had been rewarded with being on the cover of People Magazine and the Enquirer too had done a four page spread about the secret life she led prior to marrying Joseph. Okay… so that’s not true, but I’m sure the gossip train rolled just as ugly; shooting off steam and traveling just as far. But this night she lie in a make shift hospital room on the side of a hill. Forget sterile, her baby was wrapped in grave clothes, no anesthesia or drugs to dull the pain, and the Physician’s assistant was a donkey name Estelle. Again, I embellish! But the story is so ordinary… NOT!

It’s one of the thousands of story in the Bible that need not be embellished, it’s just as amazing to me every year and when I slow down to think about it; multiple celestial sightings, prophecy fulfilled, a Baby born to a virgin, welcomed by shepherds, honored by Wise Men and a price put on His little head by a pagan king who feared the power of a not so ordinary infant boy. And all that for me!

What an amazing God we serve that He would write such an awesome story to be placed in our lineage and shared with our children and grandchildren. I wonder if the original characters will gather around and tell us all the “real” version of the story when we get to Heaven. Family story night will take on a whole new meaning when we’re together up there! And those books…the ones that God writes in every day of the things we’ve done for Him; perhaps we could even leaf back through to the night of Jesus’ conception and read for ourselves what God wrote of Mary’s reaction to the news that she would carry our Lord. My mind is reeling at what might have been written in those books and what a trip to the library might be like. I’m so grateful for stories…

It’s Sunday! And today I get to be the storyteller to a group of teens in my class. I get to gather them around and share the Good News and the Glory of God. I’m excited, can you tell? I hope you’re excited to share that news today. You don’t have to be a Sunday School teacher; just tell somebody!

A Christmas Tree in the Bible?

Jesus Chick Christmas

In the dark hours before dawn my Christmas tree glows a bright red; adorned with baubles and ribbon, a few sentimental ornaments and candy canes, and Santa on top. Don’t judge me… I just think he’s cute and I love the spirited story of giving. The meaning of Christmas has nothing to do with my tree and everything to do with my heart, which on a regular basis is distracted by life. Surely, I’m not alone? It doesn’t help matters that I’m ADD-OSS at Christmas time. (Attention Deficit Disorder, Oh Something Shiny!) And Heaven knows there is plenty of shiny things to catch my eye. It’s hard enough for me to stay focused on regular days of the year. The closer that Christmas gets I revert to childlike tendencies and begin to wonder what’s going to be under my tree, and at my age I try to remember what I’ve put under the tree. I dream of the wonderful times I’ll have with friends and family and the specialness of having an excited new Pastor in our church this time of year. I have handmade grandbaby goodies all over my house. A Frostie the Snowman milk jug sits beside me that was forgotten by preschooler Nicolis yesterday and my heart overflows… and my mind does too with all the things that need to get done the next few days!

The Christmas Tree has long been a tradition but was by no means started in America. According to history the traditional Christmas tree began in Germany by devout Christians and is also believed that Martin Luther, the 16th-century Protestant reformer, first added lighted candles to a tree. Walking toward his home one winter evening, composing a sermon, he was awed by the brilliance of stars twinkling amidst evergreens. To recapture the scene for his family, he erected a tree in the main room and wired its branches with lighted candles.

But this morning I find a Christmas tree in the scriptures that has nothing to do with the Holidays but everything to do with the Holy Days that are before us.

Isaiah 60:13

13 The glory of Lebanon shall come unto thee, the fir tree, the pine tree, and the box together, to beautify the place of my sanctuary; and I will make the place of my feet glorious.

As I understand it, Isaiah speaks not only of the Sanctuary in Solomon’s day but the Sanctuary of Christ where He makes a place for His feet and in that place there will be a pine tree! I found that fascinating this morning. Let the naysayers say what they want about Pagan rituals but Jesus likes Christmas trees too. So much so that they’re going to be in His sanctuary. Whether or not His trees will be decorated is yet to be discovered, and in the presence of Jesus I doubt it will be necessary, He’ll shine enough on His own! But this morning that decorated tree took on a new meaning as think about the return of Christ when the sorrows of this world will be gone, Hallelujah! and only the sweetness of life will be known.

Today His feet are in Heaven and I have to wonder if there’s not a tree there too? Nothing is beyond a possibility when God is involved. I hadn’t noticed before that pine trees were even in the bible, but I am ever so thankful that God gave me that scripture today. I hope you’ll find a little extra blessing in an evergreen this Christmas too!

I Traded Jesus for Amazon?

Baby Jesus for free 2

It all began yesterday as I prepared a devotion for the teen Christmas Party and ended this morning as I prepared to write my blog. I told the teens about a woman who stepped out of her car and noticed that her Baby Jesus had been stolen from the Nativity set on her lawn. At first she was angry, and then she began wondering who it was that would have done such a thing? She first thought it was surely menacing teens, then her thoughts went much darker about certain religions that would take it symbolically. So the teens and I discussed who they thought would have taken that Baby Jesus and they basically came to same conclusions that the owner did. But for the rest of the story…

The woman was angry for a little while and then decided for the sake of Christmas she really needed to get past this, so she created a sign and placed it in the manger where the Baby Jesus once lay; it read “You may have stolen the Baby, but you can’t steal Christ! He was crucified, but is risen again and He is alive and well in my heart.”

Well played! And how true!

Nobody can take Christ from us. Romans 8:38-39 reads:

For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

And yet, my computer gave me a wake-up call this morning I hadn’t anticipated this Christmas. When I open up Google Chrome, there are about 8 pages that I can click on in the order of my most visited sites. Forever and a day, possibly less, my number one visited page is one that I use for my blog and bible studies, www.biblegateway.com. It’s where you’ll find the scripture links I use and it has very useful commentaries and such that are handy when studying the Word.

But today that was not my number one site, it was (I’m ashamed to say) www.amazon.com.

What! How did that get there?

I’ll tell you how it got there. That’s where my Christmas focus has been. Rather than running like a mad woman all over the country to Christmas shop I’ve been on Amazon.com ordering, ordering, ordering, and then checking the status every day. And in all my shopping and checking, I’d traded Baby Jesus on amazon.com, or at least that’s what it felt like when Google Chrome ratted me out this morning.

I haven’t been blogging for the past few weeks because of multiple responsibilities elsewhere, all of which allowed me to let my own immune system to get run down and allow a virus to attach itself to me, to the point I actually considered going to the doctor! But that was way too radical an idea, so I toughed it out, getting to the point of death or so I thought one day. But today I’m on the mend and sick of myself. I had not allowed the Baby Jesus to be stolen from my manger, I had given Him away on Amazon. I’ve not only been physically low I’ve been spiritually low for about two or three weeks with no one to blame but myself. I have allowed the temporary frustrations to take a permanent hold on me. Sad truth from the Jesus Chick.

So today I’ve set myself back on the Jesus journey. The one that puts the Bible back on the front row of Google Chrome and my life and puts my focus back on the whole meaning of Christmas which is Easter! Ha! Bring on the Holidays!

What Happens When You Hear His Name?

Isaiah 9 6Isaiah 9:6

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

That scripture brings to mind the song “This World is Not my Home,” as I read it this morning, thinking back on recent conversations that I’ve heard. The conversations of both the saved and unsaved alike are filled with anxiety and worry and then turn on a dime to apathy. They discuss end time events as if they’re imminent, yet escapable. My comments and insight are tolerated yet unwanted and I don’t know if I should shake the soup out of my family and friends, or throw my hands up in the air and walk away, yet I know the answer and so I keep talking… mostly to Jesus.

His Name shall be called Wonderful…

Sounds just like Christmas doesn’t it. The word Wonderful evokes sentiments of splendor and smiles but with the Name of Jesus, One in the same, the sentiment is different depending upon the day of the week, the time of day or the geographic location. His name also brings with it conviction, misunderstanding, and anger. But it is Wonderful if you know Him as He desires to be known.

His Name shall be called Counsellor…

But the world would rather seek advice from “educated” people who have been indoctrinated by colleges and universities that say God is an idea not a fact. I know there are good godly professionals out there, but they are few and far between and few that seek them out when they’re in trouble. It’s easier to tune into Dr. Fill me up with garbage than to fall down upon your knees to the Wonderful Counsellor Who only gives good advice.

His Name shall be called Mighty God…

Until Church folk put Him into a box on Sunday morning and perhaps Wednesday night if they can fit Him into their schedule, unless a crisis happens to occur and then He is Mighty God again, or they hope so. They don’t know so because their relationship with Him has been so obscure that they really don’t know Him that well. But He is still the same Mighty God as in Creation! He Who spoke the world into existence… unimaginable in my finite mind yet truth.

His Name shall be called Everlasting Father…

Eternal, forever and ever Amen… the way most believe their own lives to be on earth. Yet our lives are but a blip on the radar in comparison to eternity. We’re in utter despair when we lose someone we love on earth because of all the uncertainty that Satan throws into the mix. We know that scripture tells us that those who know the Lord as Savior are present with Him in death, but Satan plants seeds of doubt. And then there are those that we do not know if they knew the Lord as Savior… what about them? That is why we need to be concerned about those that are alive and well (or not so well) here on earth. For them they are still afforded the chance to know so that we all may have peace should something happen. And we can stand flat footed and call Satan the liar that he is.

His Name shall be called Prince of Peace…

Peace on earth, good will toward men? Somebody didn’t get the memo. Peace isn’t experienced where the Prince isn’t welcome. It’s the one thing that if we were all honest we’d say that we’d give up everything else in our life just to experience it, and it’s there for the asking. Perhaps not as we’d like it. We think peace is the evidence of no sorrow, or concerns in the world. But that’s not it. Peace is a feeling in the soul even in the middle of one of the worst storms in life knowing that the Prince has it under control. That’s my Jesus!

My prayer for you this Christmas is that you experience the Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Prince of Peace and then share Him as the greatest gift ever given to the world.

 

A Christmas Thought Worth thinking…

God with us

Isaiah 7:14

Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

This was the Biblegateway.com verse of the day, and one of my many Christmas favorites. Matthew 1:23 gives us greater definition of that name, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.”

God with us. One of the countless things that defines Christianity above all others. Nobody else is claiming they have God indwelling in their hearts. Nobody else can have a conversation to the degree that a Christian is privileged to have and yet we take it for granted so often. If there is a thought worth meditating on this Christmas season it is this one. God with us… If there is a gift worth giving this Christmas Season it is the ability to share God with a friend or family member through your testimony and witness so they too may experience “God with them!”

There is so much heartache in the world around us: sickness, depression, and loneliness just to name a few. And although Christians certainly can and do suffer those things, we know that having God with us can make a bitter journey sweet.  Having the ability to be ministered to by God Himself in times of trouble is a privilege not afforded to those who do not Him.

Today my Christmas thought is this… “God with us.” I don’t want to take it for granted, so I’m sharing it with you too, in hopes that perhaps today a conversation will start in several hearts and perhaps it will be a gift to God this Christmas that His children’s gratitude will be felt in the throne room of Heaven.