“Silent Night” is perhaps one of the best known Christmas carols to date. It is by far my favorite! I love that it brings us back to the real “reason for the season” –the birth of the Savior.
I relate to the scenery in the song that is specific to the skyline that night, mainly because I live in the country. And living in the country does have its advantages. One of them is the ability to look up into the night sky on a clear night and see millions of stars glimmering right back at you. Another is that deep into the evening, it gets quiet –deathly, but peacefully, quiet.
Having stood out recently on one of the chiller nights we have had, with stars laid out as far as the eye can see and silence all around, I closed my eyes and let my mind focus on that glorious night when Jesus made His entrance into the world as a tiny baby boy.
There in Bethlehem, Joseph and Mary would find themselves in a barn surrounded by animals, such as cows and donkeys. It wasn’t glamorous or royal by any means, but quite ordinary. They would be isolated from family and friends. Joseph would be there watching Mary careful and yet feeling quite helpless at the same time. And Mary, still a virgin, would endure every moment of childbirth naturally. And yet, in that place, under those circumstances, they would birth a King.
We have to take a moment to remember some details leading up to that night. Would you indulge me for a few minutes? Thanks!
Yes, Joseph and Mary were in the right place. A magnificent Lord would start off in humble beginnings, but He was not destined to stay there. Isaiah describes Him best:
For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isa. 9:6
Yes, that 7-8 lb baby wrapped in strips of cloth would start out in lowly circumstances, but He became the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. And even now, we are yet to see Him in all His glory! What a day that will be!
I hope you have a wonderful Christmas season. I also hope you will take some time to ponder what a miraculous event occurred that night. I am right there with you, sometimes getting caught up in the tinsel, presents, and fun that occurs this time of year. Let’s not forget to be silent, even if just for a few minutes. Let’s quiet ourselves and experience that silent night, the holiest of nights and savor the moment!
Merry Christmas to you and yours!!!!!
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
When my dad developed a chronic lung condition called chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), I hoped and prayed that God would spare him from the sometimes severe effects of the disorder. Some COPD patients go several years before needing supportive oxygen, but as a heavy cigarette smoker, my dad went only a couple of years. It was painful to watch him deteriorate, but before the condition became too severe, he passed away from injuries sustained in a car accident.
Have you had the experience of watching a love one suffer from chronic illness? Perhaps they had a condition such as severe arthritis, fibromyalgia, heart disease, or cancer. Maybe that someone is you?
Though chronic illness is hard, tiring, frustrating, and just plain overwhelming at times, our Savior is a healer. Over and over in the New Testament are stories of Jesus healing – the young, the old, individuals, groups, Jews, and Gentiles.
From these stories we can gleam all the ways in which Jesus healed – physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Let’s take one of those stories and breakdown the elements within the story to see these various levels of healing unfold.
Luke 13:10-13 (NLT) states:
One Sabbath day as Jesus was teaching in a synagogue, he saw a woman who had been crippled by an evil spirit. She had been bent double for eighteen years and was unable to stand up straight. When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, “Dear woman, you are healed of your sickness!” Then he touched her, and instantly she could stand straight. How she praised God!
Have you ever felt trapped by your physical or emotional state? Do you feel hopeless to resolve the issue? Jesus is our healer, and what He touches no one can reverse.
I relate to this story of the woman crippled by an evil spirit. There have been times in my life, I have been crippled, engulfed, and overwhelmed by my emotional and physical flaws. Trapped by feelings of insecurity, fear, loneliness, and low self-worth. Trapped by feeling that I am not pretty enough, not tall enough, not slim enough. Gripped by an evil spirit that wanted me to feel less than worthy, less than adequate in regards to my Savior. Jesus constantly flips the table on such things, just as He does in this story.
In the short 3-4 verses that reference her situation, we learn a couple of things about her:
Then Jesus, being the compassionate Savior He is, notices her. He sees something inside her that is worth redeeming, and immediately He goes into action! Notice He “called her over.” She didn’t come to Jesus until He called. Is Jesus calling you?
Then He proclaims, “you are healed of your sickness.” Imagine how those words must have rung in her ears. Her heart must of leaped in that moment. Do you think her faith began to rise?
So here’s a question for you –if Jesus can speak anything into existence, why did He not stop there? She was healed right? He said it was so. Why then did He reach out and touch her? I believe Jesus is all about relationship, not just an acquaintance, but a personal, concrete relationship! And so, He touched her. It doesn’t get more personal than that.
“Instantly she could stand straight.” I would love to know what she saw first from her new vantage point. Was it the crowd? Was it Jesus’ face? Or maybe, it was the synagogue leaders?
Whoever or whatever she saw first, doesn’t compare to her reaction: “How she praised God!” Can you see her thank Jesus over and over? Can you see her almost dance around? Can you imagine how many people she stopped to tell her good fortunate on the way home?
I hope you see the pattern:
Whatever you face today, remember your healer! No matter the circumstance, no matter how much time has passed, don’t give up on believing in His power. One day, He may call you over, speak to your condition, and release you from what “binds” you. Then how you will praise God!
Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007, 2013 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
So the Christmas season is upon us! Hopefully by now you have your decorations up and a little shopping done. I, personally, haven’t started Christmas shopping, but mainly because my Christmas list is very small. I don’t have a huge immediate family, and in recent years, my husband and I have committed to doing very small gifts for each other.
I do, however, have the tree and all the other decorations up. I especially love our Christmas tree. We have had the same tree for several years. It is the old kind of tree that requires all the branches be inserted individually, and the lights put on it one string at a time. I know, I know … get into the 21st century Elaine, and get a tree that comes in parts and already has the lights on it.
Every year I say, “Next year we are getting another tree.” But, honestly, ever year I put up our old tree (no small feat) and once it is done, it is amazing how good it looks. Something about sitting in the glow of that tree and looking at all the ornaments on it, each representing some beautiful memory from our life together, I fall in love with it all over again!
Yep, I’m a sap at Christmas! (no pun intended!)
So as I think about Christmas trees, the phrase “trimming the tree” comes to me. While we use that phrase to mean putting decorations on the tree, Jesus talked about “trimming” from a different perspective. In the New Testament, Jesus referred to trimming as pruning, and more often spoke of pruning vine branches versus a tree.
In John 15, Jesus describes Himself as the vine, and his followers as the branches that remain on the vine. However, there was a second type of branch, the kind that “did not bear fruit” (John 15:2). Notice these unfruitful branches were ‘cut away.’ However, the branches that remained and bore fruit were pruned!
At first, it sounds like both branches are being punished, but those who regularly prune shrubs or bushes understand the process of pruning is a good thing. The act of pruning actually makes the branch grow back, and grow back both stronger and more fruitful than before.
The bearing of fruit is important, as it proves our connection to Christ:
This connection is vital. Connection to the vine (Jesus) is connection to life. Jesus tells us clearly that apart from Him we can do nothing (John 15:5). Was Jesus being arrogant? Absolutely not! To carry out all that Jesus has for us, we must draw off His strength and power. When we do, the fruit of the spirit becomes obvious in our lives.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Gal. 5:22-23 ESV
So, I pray this holiday season that you will endure any spiritual pruning that occurs, and that you bear some awesome spiritual fruit!
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
Hard to believe another Thanksgiving has gone by, and the Christmas season is directly in front of us. I hope you had a wonderful day of family, food, and fun! Today, many of you are just coming back from some early (and I mean early!) Black Friday shopping, and others are getting ready to head out the door. I don’t really want to bring you down, but I do want to speak to your heart today!
We get so excited about Thanksgiving, and some of us are even more excited about Black Friday. While I definitely see the positive side of Black Friday (who doesn’t want to shop for 50-80% off!), I also see the other side of it –the side we tend to ignore, at least until the 6 o’clock news comes on, and we hear the stories of people literally being tramped over by the crowds rushing in the store to buy their child the latest and greatest toy. Ironic that we can be so thankful one day for all that we have, and then desperate the next day to buy, buy, buy.
Now, I realize that most folks are actually out there buying gifts for someone else, but the reality is they really love the hunt for bargains, to be able to say I got “this” for “this price.” But the gifts we give at Christmas should be reflective of the person who we are celebrating, shouldn’t it?
Well, it’s November, the month of Thankfulness (which should be every day, right?). So as I reflect on November, I thank God for all that has happen this past year and for all that will come. What I struggle with the most is thanking Him for what is happening in the moment -right now, today! You too! I’m so glad you spoke up!
Crazy how we can reflect on past things or even dream of future things, but those things right there in front of us always seem to elude me. I am sure I am not alone in this, which is probably why Cinderella’s hit Don’t Know What You’ve Got (Til It’s Gone) was so wildly popular in the 80’s. (but I digress!)
I am so thankful for a God that sees me in the moment, and although it is against our nature, I strive to see Him the very same way. I want to catch Him working in my life every hour, even every 5 minutes! Good to know Jesus “is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Heb. 13:8 NLT). It gives me hope that I might actually catch up to Him someday. Ironic that to get up to speed with God, I actually need to slow down. Slow down from the busyness of the day, slow down and push out the distractions, slow down and listen for a small, still voice whispering words of mercy and grace to me.
Wow, I can’t believe how time has flown!! Where did the last few weeks go? I feel like we haven’t talked in ages!
I wish I could tell you the last several days have been filled with big red hearts and unicorns, but it hasn’t! In fact, it has been some of the toughest days I have had in a while. I have felt the world slowly caving in all around me, and that I was unable to stop it! I have felt isolated and maybe even a little abandoned.
I just wanted to go out my front door and yell to the top of my lungs, “World, are you out there?”
Can you relate?
Well even when the sun doesn’t come up for me and the gray skies hang around way too long, I know this – He still loves me. Even though I have thrown a temper tantrum or two over the last couple of weeks and told Him He is taking way too long on this one – He is still patient with me. And yes, even when my 40-something, hormonal self is just sitting there pouting, though I know what He has promised – He probably is just laughing at me!
The last few weeks has reminded me why I love Jesus so much, even when I am completely and totally unlovable at times. He is faithful and He is true.
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Hebrews 13:8 NIV
Not long ago, I got a manicure and pedicure, so I would look nice at a particular event I was attending. Who doesn’t like to be pampered once in a while? It reminded me of the night Jesus washed the disciples’ feet. If you have a chance, read today’s entire background passage John 13:1-17.
Let’s look at the first Scripture passage together. John 13:1 sets the scene:
Before the Passover celebration, Jesus knew that his hour had come to leave this world and return to his Father. He had loved his disciples during his ministry on earth, and now he loved them to the very end.
Here Jesus was at the moment of truth – time to carry out the Father’s will. My heart is warmed by the second half of the verse: “He had loved his disciples during his ministry on earth, and now he loved them to the very end.” That piece of the passage tells me Jesus can love me through anything -all the way to the end, which for His followers will be through eternity.
As we are coming off the Easter celebration, I am grateful for all that transpired that fateful day 2000 years ago –the day Jesus conquered death and set us free! However, I feel a little inquisitive about the various people Jesus appeared to once He was resurrected. For instance, who were the two men walking to Emmaus? Were they new to the faith or had they followed Jesus the entire 3 years He preached? How many times had they heard Jesus speak? Were they healed by Him?
Earlier in Chapter 24 of Luke, we are told it is early Sunday morning. That would be the same Sunday morning the tomb was found open and empty. Then the discussion turns to these two men, and we are told it is “the same day,” meaning resurrection Sunday. We are also told the two men were headed away from Jerusalem.
Why would Jesus appear first to someone outside His inner circle, and why outside of Jerusalem? We may never know the answer, but can you imagine being one of the first He appeared to?
Shout with joy to the Lord, all the earth!
Worship the Lord with gladness.
Come before him, singing with joy.
Acknowledge that the Lord is God!
He made us, and we are his.
We are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving;
go into his courts with praise.
Give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good.
His unfailing love continues forever,
and his faithfulness continues to each generation.
So the past few weeks have been incredibly busy, stressful, and just plan overwhelming! I know we all have days like that, but when they pile on all at once, it is crazy! You can just get defeated!
This past week, I decided to get some help! I needed intercession, and I went for it! I am blessed to have some awesome friends who were willing to pray with me this past week. Praying to God can take the weight off your shoulders, but praying to God with friends can lift you off the ground.
Goodness -How do you define it? When looking up the word goodness in most dictionaries these synonyms are listed: integrity, honesty, uprightness, virtue, and my personal favorite -moral excellence. And evil, yes, there are synonyms for this too, but let’s just call it by its real name -sin.
Daily, I struggle against the sin within me to achieve some level of goodness. However, apart from God, it is an impossible task. My human nature is weak, but He is strong. Let’s use God’s litmus test for judging if we are good or sinful.
The Ten Commandments:
1. “You shall have no other gods before me.”
2. “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.”
3. “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.”
4. “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.”
5. “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.”
6. “You shall not murder.”
7. “You shall not commit adultery.”
8. “You shall not steal.”
9. “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.”
10. “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” Exodus 20:3-17 NIV