You Are Precious

We are God's Segullah--a Hebrew word used eight times in the Old Testament in regard to us. It is often translated as "treasured possession." A segullah is a jeweler's term and refers to an object of great beauty and of great value. It brings exquisite delight to the person who wears it. This is how God describes us!

There may be someone reading this who thinks, "Surely He does not call me His beloved. I should not even have been born." If so, God has a special word for you. After David committed adultery with Bathsheba and she became pregnant, he had her husband Uriah murdered to cover up his sin. He married Bathsheba, a son was born and despite David's fasting and prayers, the baby died. 

Bathsheba and David had a second son--a son who would not have been born if his father had not committed adultery and murder. They named him Solomon, which meant peace. Perhaps David thought, now I can have peace because God has given me this son despite my sin. 

But even more remarkable is the special name God gave baby Solomon. God "sent word through Nathan the prophet that they should name him Jedidiah (which means 'beloved of the LORD'" (2 Samuel 12:25 NLT).

He is the only one with that name in the Bible. It's as though God wanted to send a special message to any one who may feel that they are only born because of a parent's sin. God says, "You are my Jedidiah; you are my delight; I love you."

Thank You, Father, for not allowing anything to cause You to withdraw Your love from us.

"Mercy triumphs over judgment" (James 2:13).

Jesus Wants to Share His Burden

G. C. Bevington, a man of great faith, said he learned the importance of praying until he could discern what request to make. In doing that, he would sense the burden on Jesus' heart. 

If we pray for a desire God has put into our hearts, then the request comes down from Him and when it returns to Him, He will hear and answer. 

I find it interesting that the night Jesus was arrested and He and His disciples went to the garden of Gethsemane to pray, He shared His distress with only the closest three. He left the others about a "stone's throw" away--far enough that they would not have heard the burden on His heart. 

"He took Peter, James, and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. 'My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,' he said to them" (Mark 14:33, 34).

Jesus wanted to share His burdens with those closest to Him. He still does.

Jesus, help Me to pray until I know what is on Your heart.

"In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will" (Romans 8:26, 27).

Will We Wish We Had Given Him More?

"After spending numerous times in prayer with a former associate in our ministry," wrote Dick Eastman in The Hour That Changes the World, "I was amazed to find that he prayed for every person on the World Literature Crusade headquarter's staff by name. He also prayed for each overseas leader associated with the ministry. Quietly and confidently, he would appeal for compassion, wisdom, and strength for each of the more than two hundred workers on his list.

"Then, with continuing confidence, he prayed for every major Christian leader who was even vaguely familiar to me. And there was more. He proceeded to intercede for every king, president, and political leader of the almost fifty Islamic and Communist nations. He did not pray for the leaders collectively, but for each separately, by name."

The apostle Paul often assured his fellow Christians of his prayers. Paul confidently lifted their names before God, trusting God to bless each of them. Samuel told the Israelites, "As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you" (1 Samuel 12:23).

There is power in our prayers when we commit ourselves to regular praying in which we daily bring names to the Lord. Such praying is not just a recitation. It provides the Holy Spirit access to those hearts.

Could it be that someday we'll say, "But, Lord, if I had known You were going to answer all those prayers, I would have prayed more; I would have put more people on my list"? By that time we will have said farewell to the "sweet hour of prayer." How wonderful that we still have time to touch others with our love and prayers.

Thank You, Lord, for the high privilege of connecting others with You through prayer.

"I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers" (Ephesians 1:16)."We always thank God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers" (1 Thessalonians 1:2).

If Praise Is Difficult

When giving thanks is the last thing we want to do, it is time to respond to Paul's words, "Set your mind and keep them set on what is above" (Col. 3:2 Amp.) We can and must choose where we will place our thoughts.

Here are two suggestions.

We are to make sure that we are thinking of God. Paul said, "I thank my God" (Phil. 1:3), and no doubt he was thinking on God's goodness and power. It is easy to thank God for something and hardly think of Him at all. If I allow my mind to continually dwell on the problems I am praying about, it can be quite a stretch from there to always giving thanks. But it seems to be a small step from thanking Him for His good and perfect plans to trusting Him to fulfill those plans. 

A second suggestion is to remember that the Spirit of Christ within us is a Spirit of thanksgiving. To always be giving thanks is simply to respond to His Spirit within!

Dear Lord, some day in Heaven I will be saying, "Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever," and when I look back over every detail of my life, I will see Your faithfulness. I will see You always provided all I needed in every situation. I will finally understand that You did not allow anything but what could bring good to me and glory to You. I will see reasons for praise in everything! Help me to choose by faith the eternal perspective now and praise You for Your perfect faithfulness. In Jesus' name I pray. Ame

How Do We Acknowledge God?

One New Year's Eve I asked each member of our family to give a verse they would like prayed for them that year. One requested Proverbs 3:6: "In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths."

As I made this verse into a prayer-"Help him to acknowledge You in all his ways, so You can direct his paths"- I thought about what it means to acknowledge God. I had originally thought of it as our response when someone walks into the room and we acknowledge them rather than ignore them. That might be true if we are acknowledging a friend, but it occurred to me that to acknowledge God is much more. The Hebrew word for "acknowledge" is the common word for know. 

God, who calls us to acknowledge Him, says, "Lean not on your own understanding." If I acknowledge God, then, I don't merely notice that He is with me. I recognize Him as Lord of all. I do not trust God merely in a general way and then trust myself regarding details. I abandon myself in every way to His supervision.

At times this is fairly easy. When a woman came for advice, I knew I had to look only to the Lord, for she surely knew every answer I could think of on my own. As I "knew only Christ," abandoned myself to Him, and said only what He gave me to say, she began to hear from the Lord.

The key to acknowledging him is to continually look to Him, believing He directs every detail. It's a matter of faith.

Dear Jesus, help me to acknowledge you in all my ways today.

"This is what the Lord says--your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: 'I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go'" (Isaiah 48:17).

 

Why Make Time With Jesus a Priority

A little boy got his hand in an expensive vase. His parents tried but could not remove his hand. Finally, they realized they would have to break their lovely vase. 

When they did, they discovered the reason the little boy's hand could not come out was because he was holding on to a penny. We often hold on to time-consuming things in our schedule and more important things are lost in the process.

Although I understood the necessity of putting spiritual disciplines first in my life, nothing motivated me as much as something God revealed to my spirit. One day the Spirit showed me that when I fail to give priority to what is truly important, He is grieved. Rather than giving me a sense of guilt, I felt He was allowing me to see that He felt much as a girl whose fiancé ignores her while giving his attention to another girl. For a few moments I felt a deep sadness.

Those few moments of revelation have done more to help me desire to be faithful to the spiritual disciplines than all the guilt trips I had placed upon myself. Once we catch a vision of God's desire to fellowship with us as He did with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, then our natural response is one of wanting to come close to Him. 

Thank You, Lord, for helping me to see that Your desire for a relationship with me is too precious to not give it my highest priority.

"Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me" (Revelation 3:20).

"The LORD takes delight in his people; he crowns the humble with salvation" (Psalm 145:4).

How to Find Peace

I spoke with a young lady who longed to be at peace in her spirit despite an unpleasant circumstance. "The struggle is wearing me out," she sighed. "I tend to think that if the situation would change, I would have great joy, but I need to be able to say, 'If I have God's will, then I have great joy.'"

She's right. When we realize our joy is in doing His will, we find rest.

Years ago, soon after my mother moved to Kansas City to be near us, she received a letter telling her that the job she had been promised would not be available. She had been so excited about that position.

Later she shared with me the poem she had drawn from her little box of promises after taking her disappointment to the Lord.

"If place I choose or place I shun,

My soul is satisfied with none; 

But when my Lord directs the way,

'Tis equal joy to go or stay."

No matter what our problem is, if we hand it to God, He either removes it or causes it to be a blessing for which we will one day be thankful. 

By faith, Father, I accept all that You allow. Your view of what is best is better than mine.

"And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them" (Romans 8:28 NLT).

The Cleaning Lady and the AIDS Patient

Jim, an IV drug abuser and a homosexual, was dying from AIDS. The nurses, medical students, and doctors all agreed Jim was an unusually obnoxious patient. When someone entered his room, Jim would turn his back to him. If he did answer any questions, it was with contempt. 

One day my husband, who was Jim's physician, saw him while on medical rounds with interns, residents, and medical students. As usual they expected the less-than-civil response. But Jim did not turn his back, and when they turned to leave, Jim said, "Thank you!" 

"What has happened to him?" Daniel wondered. He decided to return to Jim's room when they could be alone.

When he went to see Jim, he asked, "What has happened to you?"

"What do you mean?"

"The way you acted today was so much different from usual. You even said, 'Thank you.'"

"I asked Christ into my life," Jim quickly responded.

"How did that happen? Tell me about it," Daniel asked, sitting down beside him.

"The cleaning lady has been coming into my room during her breaks and on her lunch hours and reading the Bible to me." Then he quickly added, "Oh, I hope I didn't get her in trouble."

Daniel assured him the cleaning lady had his permission, and then added, "What does this mean to you, Jim, to have Christ in your heart?"

"You mean about my lifestyle?" he responded. "If I ever get out of here, I can never go back to that," he said. Jim lived only a few months after their conversation, but he remained a changed man because of the power in God's Word.

Help us, dear Lord, to recognize the power of Your Word that we share with others.

"I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes" (Romans. 1:16).

A True Test of Spirituality

In a women's ministry conference, Dr. Pamela Reeve, a faculty member of Multnomah Biblical Seminary, told that in one period of her life she worked under a supervisor who sought to stifle her vision and to constrict her work. Her natural desire was to retaliate. She prayed much and thought surely God would change the man's mind, but He didn't. 

"God wanted to do a work in me," she said.  His first work was to convince her at a deep level that God was in charge of the outcome of her work. She wasn't. Then He also convinced her that no one else controlled her ministry; God Himself was in control.

"I remember the rest and the freedom that came out of that," she recalled.

Still she had to endure the boss's disparagements of her because he constantly undercut her to those beneath her. It meant she must daily put off that old life that wanted to retaliate either very openly or very subtly. It also meant a daily looking to the Spirit for power to bless that man, to pray for Him and to say good of him, to do him all the good she could possibly do. 

The test of her spirituality came in that daily putting off. The Lord let her exercise that discipline for a long time.

"Then came a wonderful word," she recalled. "I had been asking the Lord for more of the fruit of the Spirit and I heard someone say, 'You cannot have the fruit of longsuffering without suffering long.' "I can't tell you what it meant because He gave me at the same time a heart to suffer well. It was not long after that, that out of nowhere except the risen Christ who dwells within, the Lord began to usher forth from my life, a very pure, very deep love for my boss that just totally overflowed. I'd been doing the outward works, but it was only God that could bring that spiritual formation."

Years went on and finally her boss retired. The boss never changed in his attitude toward her. "But what a service that man performed," she said declaring that probably he was the most influential person that ever touched her life because he forced her to, by faith, to count on the empowering of the Spirit to do those things that please Him.

Thank You, God, for grace to love when it is impossible in our own strength.

"Those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also" (1 John 4:21).

We Carry His Presence

"If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here," pleaded Moses when God called him to lead the Israelites. "What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?" (Exodus 33:15, 16).

It is still true for us today. If God's presence is not with us, we have nothing to mark us as distinct from anyone else. When we go to others, then, we go as carriers of His glorious presence. 

It was the glory of God's presence that marked Jesus' life. The people saw the Spirit of God through the life and death of Jesus. 

The amazing truth is that God is still seeking to reveal the glory of His presence through a human body. 1 John 4:17 has a remarkable phrase: "as He was, so are we in this world" (KJV) As Christ was the dwelling place for the presence of God, so are we to be.

Someone sent me this quote by MacRina Wiederkehr: "There is nothing so healing in all the world as real presence. Our real presence can feed the ache for God in others." This is certainly true of those who are carriers of His presence.

How will others sense God's presence in us? God is Spirit and He will reveal His Spirit through our spirit. When our spirit is the same as that of the Spirit of Christ and is characterized by the same fruit as that of the Holy Spirit-love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control-others will sense the presence of God.

Dear Lord, make us carriers of Your presence so the world will know You love them.

"Above all, love" (1 Peter 4:8).

What Protected Their Marriage?

"Today is our 34th wedding anniversary!" wrote a friend. "As I was thanking the Lord this morning for keeping us together, I realized that it has been only by His grace and mercy that we have remained together. There were many times we would have walked away, many times we didn't feel love or loving, and many times we didn't want to see or talk with each other...Having four children added disagreements about care and discipline.

"One year when the children were young, we were having an especially bad time in our marriage. My parents saw it and covenanted together to pray for our marriage. About 18 months later, they were celebrating Christmas with us. We were all sharing things about the year that we were thankful for. I shared that I was thankful because it had been the best year of our marriage!

  "My mother got a sheepish grin on her face and then shared with us that they had never thought before to pray for our marriage. They had prayed for our work, our health, and our children. But that year and a half, they had prayed every day for our marriage, and the Lord had answered!"

Dear Lord, prompt me to pray the prayers that will provide the protections others most need.

"Far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you" (1 Samuel 12:23).

A Miracle in China

Brother Duan, a house church leader in China was traveling through Henan Province when his bus broke down. On a whim, he left the bus and began walking toward a village. He was depressed and lonely. His wife had died years earlier, and the thought of his son brought an even darker cloud over his heart.

He came to a village and knocked on a door that had a little wooden cross on it. The people welcomed him in and invited him to go with them to hear a dynamic Bible teacher named Brother Wang.

On the way to the meeting, they explained why they loved this teacher so much. Once when the police came to arrest their pastor, Wang offered to go to prison if their pastor, whose wife was eight months pregnant, would be allowed to go free. Wang spent three years in prison.

"How old is Brother Wang," Duan asked? When he was told he was in his early 40s, Duan's face showed great pain. "I once had a son. He's dead now, but if alive he would have been 42 today. He told them the story of how an unbeliever named Wu kept accusing them of political offenses. It was only a matter of time before they were imprisoned or killed, but what would happen to their baby?

One night, Duan's wife heard a voice saying, "Give your son to your enemy." The next morning, Duan read Genesis 22:2: "Take your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you." Sharing their impressions, they decided to give their boy to Wu who even then was arranging for Duan's arrest. Duan had winced in pain every day since over that decision.

When he got out of prison, he learned his wife had died and the Wu family had moved away. "God judged me for being so irresponsible with my little son." Duan said sadly.

When Wang began preaching, Duan felt a terrible shock. It was like hearing himself. He began to tremble and went forward to see the preacher. Suddenly the crowd was hushed as they realized the amazing physical likeness between the two men. Brother Wang began to tremble violently. "Are you Daddy Duan?" Everyone wept as father and son were reunited. Wang told that indeed he had been brought up by Wu who was so impressed by Duan's selfless act that he had become a strong Christian.

"I'm not your father,' Wu used to say. "Your real father is a great man of God, full of grace and love. He gave you to me, and I give you all my love and the encouragement to [serve] our God first, just like your real dad would have done."

Wang had searched for his dad but because Duan had changed his name many times to avoid imprisonment, he could not locate him. In God's time, He answered the longing of their hearts.

"Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!" (Rom. 11:33).

  • Told in Asia Harvest, December 2013

Arla's Change of Heart

I've become convinced that people often sense our spirits when we haven't said a word. When our daughter Arla was small and needed to be disciplined, I scolded her until we were both upset. She went to her room and I went to my study wanting to calm my own spirit. I knelt down and prayed, "Jesus, give me the mind of Christ for Arla." Suddenly I was filled with love for her. I was amazed at the tender compassion that simply overflowed in my heart.

Within moments, I heard Arla's voice calling, "Mommy, I love you." 

Could it be she sensed my spirit? I began observing my family to see if they sensed how I felt without my telling them. Often I realized they sensed my inner feelings without my saying a word.

The wife usually sets the tone, the atmosphere in her home. "He settles the barren woman in her home as a happy mother of children. Praise the Lord" (Psalm 113:9). God is concerned that the mother have a happy spirit.

Thank You, Lord, for giving us access to the mind of Christ who is always kind and loving.

"Your beauty...should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight" (1 Peter 3:4)."When she speaks, her words are wise, and kindness is the rule when she gives instructions" (Proverbs 31:26 NLT).

The Hidden Power of Fasting

The Lord spoke to Mahesh Chavda and his wife about calling their church to a twenty-one day fast. They asked the people to come together at 5:00 am for two hours each morning. Only a handful of people showed up the first two mornings. 

At the mid-week service one man said, "The Lord told me, 'I am here, where are my people?'" The next few nights children started waking up and telling their parents to go to the church for the prayer meeting. Eventually a crowd of 200 people came to pray and began fasting. A revival came to the church that lasted for weeks. Many lives were transformed.

In his journal, John Wesley tells about a group of Methodists who had little spiritual life. They agreed to fast every week. After the first week Wesley said, "God broke in upon them in a wonderful manner; His work has increased ever since." Neighboring societies heard and followed their example with the same result. 

Wesley concluded: "To neglect this specific duty (I mean fasting, ranked by our Lord with almsgiving and prayer) is one reason for deadness among Christians. Can anyone willingly neglect it without guilt?"

He told those who wanted to be Methodist preachers to fast at least twice a week. Perhaps that is why they maintained the spirit of revival for over fifty years.

Dear Jesus, as we pray for a spiritual awakening, give desires and motivation to fast. 

"Blow the trumpet in Zion, declare a holy fast, call a sacred assembly...And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people" (Joel 2: 15, 28).

 

They Won Back Their Teen

Carol and her husband helplessly watched their sixteen-year-old daughter who had attended church and week-end witnessing missions change from a happy teen, to a sullen, uncooperative, school-skipping rebel on drugs. She became cold and hard, rejecting all they stood for. When they came near, she physically avoided their touch.

The rejection began to get to Carol, and she found herself withdrawing from her daughter. After one painful incident, she ran to her hiding place, and poured out her sorrows to God. In time, an inner calmness indicated her petition was heard. Her cry changed to praise and to singing. 

Finally, she listened. God spoke to her heart in His still, small voice. First, He comforted her but then told her she was being niggardly. She hadn't a clue what it meant, so she headed for the dictionary. "Niggardly: to be selfish, stingy."

"How, Lord?" Carol asked. "Aren't we giving enough?" 

She heard Him tell her to open her eyes. Her eyes fell upon a beautiful snowfall. Each flake landed with no expectations or preconceived destination on the surprised October grass. "That's how I want you to love your daughter," God told her. "Gently, like my blanket of snow, softly covering her with your love, holding nothing back."

Engulfed in peace, Carol resolved to trust God. She and her husband avoided preaching, but in her presence, they cheerfully shared God's faithfulness in their lives. God had set Carol free to show her unconditional love again.

He also gave her insight into how to pray. Hopelessness was replaced with confidence in Him for whom nothing is too difficult. Longsuffering overcame self-pity. One and a half years later, the world released its hold on their daughter.

Months after this turnabout, their daughter said, "Mom, if I hadn't known you and Dad would welcome me with open arms, I'd never have made it back."

Thank You, Father, for giving us Your thoughts when we seek You with our whole hearts.

"Love must be sincere" (Romans 12:9)

 

Cross Out the I

When a revival came to the Congo, Helen Roseveare, a medical doctor, held herself a little aloof. After all, she was the missionary and she was supposed to have it all together. She had served God in Africa for four years, but she had not come to the place where she was able to let God have total, complete control of every area of her life. 

One day after Helen had been up almost all night and the next day was making rounds, a nurse made a mistake. Helen got very cross and scolded the nurse harshly. Her African resident, John Medinga, looked at her as they walked out of the ward and he said, "I do not think Jesus would have responded that way." 

Helen said that an arrow from the Holy Spirit went into her heart and she knew that he was absolutely right, but her pride kept her from apologizing. She went home thinking, "I'd been up all night. What else could you expect? I'm only human?" 

But she couldn't sleep, so the next morning, she apologized. "I'm very sorry, because you weren't at fault. I was very tired, and I am so sorry for sinning against you in my anger. Please forgive me." And the presence of Jesus and the joy came back to that ward. But there were still things in Helen's heart she needed to deal with, and John Medinga said, "I think you need to go for a retreat." 

She bicycled to a pastor's home. He said, "Helen, go in that room and don't come out until God's done something new in your heart." She stayed there all day Friday and Saturday. Sunday afternoon she came out feeling she was getting no where.

Helen sat by the fireside with that African pastor and he drew in the sand by the fire a big 'I'." Then he said "Helen, there's so much of you that I cannot see Jesus, nor can anyone else. Jesus came so that He could cross out that I and put the mark of the cross on our lives, so people no longer see us but see Him.

"You drink a lot of coffee. Every time you take that coffee cup in your hand, as you are carrying it around in the wards, pray this prayer, 'Not I, but Christ.' They knelt by the fire and Helen confessed in front of that African pastor her hardness of heart, her spiritual pride, her busyness, and her self-will. The Spirit and presence of Jesus came and filled Helen Roseveare's heart. 

She bicycled back to the compound Monday morning, and as she was getting off the bike, John Medinga said, "Praise God, everybody, Jesus has met the doctor!" 

Helen asked, "How do you know? I haven't said a thing." 

He said, "You don't have to say anything, your face glows."

Reveal to us, dear Lord, all in our lives that hinders others from seeing You.

"I have been crucified with Christ, and I [fill in your name] no longer live, but Christ lives in me" (Galatians 2:20).

*Story told by Beth Coppedge in a Titus Bible study.

Sleep-deprived or God-deprived?

Could God be saying "I want to fill your life with spiritual blessing by speaking to you as you read My Word, but you will not give Me time to do anything for you. It takes time to hear Me."

With God's strength we can overcome the laziness that keeps us from His best so that we say with King David, "God forbid that I should give to the Lord that which costs me nothing." Time in the Word often costs us effort, time, even sleep, but what a privilege it is to give Jesus something costly. 

Denial may mean denying ourselves listening to the news while we drive to work so we can meditate on a verse we read that morning. It may mean denying ourselves an extra hour's sleep  simply out of a desire to draw near. Some day it won't matter if we've been sleep-deprived, but we'll have all eternity to regret being God-deprived. 

"A faithful man who can find?" (Prov. 20:6). Faithfulness is rare, but when God finds a faithful person, He takes special notice just as He did with Cornelius. Cornelius faithfully met with God according to Acts 10, but surely there were days when he didn't feel like meeting his routine or didn't know if being devout made a difference. But one day God sent an angel to tell him that his prayers "have come up as a remembrance before God" (Acts 10:1-4). 

Our reading habits tell God how strong our desires are to hear from Him and He notices. 

Thank You, Father, for Your Word which is my daily bread.

"Happy are those who listen to me, watching for me daily at my gates" (Proverbs 8:34 NLT).

The Hope of All the Earth Has Come!

I wish each of you a blessed Christmas as you celebrate the birthday of our King!

Digger of oceans, polisher of stars
Hanger of planets and Healer of scars.
Sparrows' Mortician and Passover Lamb,
Feeder of ravens; Condemner of shame.
Cana Wine-Maker; Creator of light,
The Author who gives glad songs in the night.
Lover of children, Dispeller of dark.
Designer of blooms and soft willow bark.
The leaves' Architect; Songwriter for birds,
Clean Rose of Sharon and Keeper of herds.
Thunder-Exploder on cloud-shrouded peaks,
Painter of sunsets and babies' pink cheeks.
Maker of heroes, those out of the wild,
Dry desert Gardner and Bethlehem's Child.
Weaver of rainbows and bottler of tears,
Tinter of orchards and tulips' bright spears.
Galilee-Walker and calmer of waves,
Full Seed of David; Conqueror of Graves.
Sower of springtimes and Breather of wind,
Calvary's love-gift to all who have sinned.
Larzarus-Raiser and Magdalene's friend
Captain and Guide at the river's last bend.
Gadarene's Escort back home from the tombs
Builder of mansions with Heavenly rooms.
Abraham's Fruit Tree; Gethsemane's Door;
Christ, All-sufficient...and more, so much more.
Heaven's Attraction...the main Citizen,
The Church's Bridegroom, the endless Amen!
~Author Unknown
Jesus, You are all this and more!

"For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end" (Isaiah 9:6, 7).

A King in a Stable?

Long before baby Jesus was born, God prophesied that a King would be born in Bethlehem. Caesar Augustus had no idea he was setting God's plans in motion when he issued a decree that all the world should be taxed.

Mary and Joseph arrived in Bethlehem confident their Heavenly Father was taking care of every detail--but there was no room for them or baby Jesus in the inn! Mary may have been tempted to doubt the Divine planning. Surely there would have been arrangements made for Jesus to be born in a respectable place.

Sometimes we think God must have forgotten to plan some details of our lives. Things don't seem to fall together. But God always provides, although not always in the way we anticipate. Sometimes He says, "I have higher purposes than simply allowing all to fall together easily. Trust Me to be your Guide no matter how things seem."

Thank You, Jesus, for being my perfect Guide. I will trust You even though I do not understand.

"The LORD will guide you continually" (Isaiah 58:11).

Ideas for Celebrating Christmas With Your Family

"While rearing five young children and in hot pursuit of honoring Jesus on His 'birthday,' I pleaded with Him to help our family realize the true meaning of Christmas," shared Pam Enderby who works in the Come to the Fire office. While asking for help, the Holy Spirit gave her the following creative ideas.

"Christmas week our family chooses one evening after dinner to go on our annual 'Christmas lighting' adventure. Sometimes we travel many miles before determining who has the best holiday decorations. Finally, everyone picks their favorite, casts their vote and the majority wins. The children discuss who will present the grand prize - a box of assorted chocolates.

"The porch light turns on, a door opens and then a moment of explanation. 'Every year our family chooses a home that we think has the prettiest Christmas decorations. Your home has won!' While the rest of us wait in the van with our windows rolled down, we offer friendly waves.

"It amazes me how a box of chocolates with a Scripture note attached evokes such huge smiles and so many 'thank yous.'

"Visiting nursing home residents also creates heart transformations. For example, Ben's squeezing our hand tightly while thanking us with tear-filled eyes for visiting him, melts our hearts.

"One year we invited Julie, a homeless young woman, to join our family festivities. She enjoyed helping me prepare Christmas dinner, attended Christmas Eve service with us, and opened gifts with us. Sometimes giving is about how we love just one person.

"Our favorite memories revolve around anonymously giving food to needy families. Now our adult children still enthusiastically anticipate this seasonal outreach.

"By spending ourselves for the glory of God freely, generously, and sometimes sacrificially, we leave a legacy of love. With Christmas right around the corner, once again, I'm asking Jesus to guide our family to bring glory to His name.

"Freely you have received; freely give" (Matthew 10:8).