Hoping you are ready to leave 2015 behind and reach for 2016! Every step forward is a good step!
I will be using the first two weeks of the year to plan the rest of the year. Look for a new blog post by January 15th.
In addition, watch for a new design to the website as well as more speaking engagements and book signing events in 2016.
Today, I want to share 12 sets of scriptures that I reflect upon during Christmas. Some of them may be familiar verses heard at Christmas, and others are a deeper reflection of the promised Savior. Enjoy, and Merry Christmas!
In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God. God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him. 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. John 1:1-5
“For the time is coming,” says the Lord, “when I will raise up a righteous descendant from King David’s line. He will be a King who rules with wisdom. He will do what is just and right throughout the land. And this will be his name: ‘The Lord Is Our Righteousness.’ In that day Judah will be saved, and Israel will live in safety. Jeremiah 23:5-6
So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son. John 1:14
“Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’” Matthew 1:23
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?
I’m not sure what your church service looked like this past Sunday, but this was mine! At Believers Church, we had service outside underneath a HUGE tent adjacent to the property our church family will soon call home (hopefully within the next 18 months to 2 years). We called it Celebration Sunday!
Yes, we got a little crazy, but isn’t the love of Jesus something to be crazy about!
So what were we celebrating? I am so glad you asked! During this service, we were able to look back and see how far the church has come since the Rescue Project, a former project that allowed the church to build our current worship center. Back then, the church was really no bigger than your average Baptist church is today, and my husband and I weren’t part of the membership! We have, however, benefited from the hard work and strong faith of those who took God at His word and launched out into the unknown “to rescue those who were drowning in their sin.” Darrell and I came to Believers in 2006. Next year, we will have been with the church 10 years! And the growth has been incredible, so much so that we have outgrown our current building and are working toward building a new church that house all the kids, teens, and adults that Jesus sees fit to send us each Sunday (almost 1500 total).
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.
October is flying by, and it has been a busy, busy month! But it’s a good busy, thank goodness. Recently, the room addition we had built for my mother was completed, and we were able to move her into her new space. So after 11 months of our house being flipped upside down, we are finally getting everything back to some manner of order. And I, for one, like order! I like a plan and for things to go according to plan. Crazy right? Since we don’t really have control over much in the this world. But it’s just my nature.
When I wrote my book, Love Echoed Back, I had a plan for that too. For the most part, the plan went well. Organize my notes, check! Write eight chapters, including introduction and conclusion, check. Work with publisher to get it into print, check. Start marketing the book, ummmm, nope! Right around the time my book was published, my mother suffered a stroke. So the next year, everything was up in the air. Over the last year, I have made some progress here and there, but only in recent months have I really regained my focus and started formulating a plan. Ha! There I go planning things again!
What I do know is that God put the words of that book in my heart and helped me get it all on paper. I believe it is a beautiful reflection of our great God, and the story was meant to be shared. So I press on! In the last month or two, I have done a couple of speaking engagements and promoted some book signing events. It’s a lot of work, but well worth it! However, my plans are not going exactly the way I hoped. Although I am gaining ground, it.is.coming.slowly!
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
I love to read the writings of the Apostle Paul. Here is an example of a person radically changed by the love of Christ. Following his Damascus Road transformation, he was willfully consumed by the task of proclaiming the Good News. But to appreciate Paul’s new found attitude, we have to remember who Paul was before that extraordinary day.
Paul, formerly named Saul, was a Pharisee. This means he was not an ordinary Jewish citizen, but in fact a well-educated, highly intelligent student of the scripture. He knew the written laws of God intimately and would have strictly followed them from an early age. Yet, he lacked genuine knowledge of the Word made flesh.
Saul began his life as one of the most notorious characters of the Bible. Not only did he once hate the Church and all it stood for, he was determined to drive Christ followers out from among the Jewish people. He believed it was his responsibility to jail them, to terrorize them, and even murder them in the name of righteousness. He was someone to fear and someone far from Christ.
Then something miraculous happened –Jesus confronted Saul on the road to Damascus. In His grace and mercy, Jesus did not do to Saul what Saul had done to others. Instead, He speaks to Saul in a tone of offered forgiveness.