Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The New Zealand Badge

Emails from Fitbit are a never ending adventure. Today, I received an email that said, "Congrats on earning your New Zealand badge!" New Zealand? How could I possibly have earned a New Zealand badge, and what is that, anyway? It turns out that I have now walked the distance between Mordor and the Shire, which is 990 miles, without ever leaving Mississippi. Who knew? 

There's something wonderful about that kind of tangible encouragement, isn't there? If I'd known I could earn a New Zealand badge for walking 990 miles, you can be sure I'd have tried to get there sooner. It's not the electronic badge that I want. It's that setting of a goal and meeting it. The amazing thing about this goal is that I didn't set it. What I set was a daily goal of 10,000 steps. As I've worked hard at meeting that goal every day, I've gradually accumulated some distance. Apparently, those steps I've faithfully walked have added up to miles, and those miles have added up to the distance between Mordor and the Shire. I had no idea that walking the distance from Mordor to the Shire was possible, but someone did, and someone was taking note. (Of course that "someone" was probably a computer program!)

There's an amazing thing about faithfully working toward a goal. Sometimes our faithfulness does more than meet the goal we set. It leads us to a goal we never knew was possible. Before you know it, our faithfulness has achieved more than we dreamed. Isn't that amazing? 

Let's do something absolutely daring in 2015. Let's set a goal, work at it every day, and faithful meet the goal we've set. While we're being faithful, let's look with expectation toward the goal we didn't know was possible. Let's look toward that which God will do with the little bit we offer. What He does is always more than we could ask or hope, so let's start now and look toward what God does with what we do! What fun we will have!

Thanks for sharing 2014 with me. I'm looking forward to an even more amazing 2015, so get ready for an amazing ride! Happy New Year! See ya' next year!

Sending the Seventy, part 21:

"And the seventy returned with joy, saying, 'Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name.' And He said to them, 'I was watching Satan fall from heaven like lightning. Behold, I have given you authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall injure you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven.'" 
                                                                                                                              Luke 10: 17-20 NASB

Jesus had sent the seventy out with quite a job. They were to go to every town and village where He was headed, telling the good news of Jesus and healing in His name. From the beginning, He told them that He was sending them out as lambs among wolves. That comment alone might have been enough to turn back the most adventuresome among us, but not the seventy.  They plowed ahead. 

They could take nothing at all with them. They had the clothes on their backs but no bag, money, change of garments, or bedroll.  They were to go to a town and look for a man of peace. They were to offer a blessing of peace to those in a house and, if it was received, they could stay there while they ministered in the town. If not, they would move on to the next town. They were to accept whatever hospitality was given without moving around, looking for better accommodations. Some entire towns would reject them. When that happened, and it would, they were to leave and go to the next town. 

This was not a fun vacation on which they embarked. This was a physically exhausting, emotionally trying, spiritually draining trip. It was nothing they had ever done before and likely nothing they had imagined. Still, they went. The sent ones did exactly what Jesus said, in exactly the way He said it, and they made it through.

When they returned, not one of them talked about how meager the accommodations or how insubstantial the food. Not one of them whined to Jesus about how difficult the task or the towns that had rejected them.  When they reported to Jesus, they returned with joy! Imagine that! They loved the trip. They considered it a fun journey. They would likely volunteer to do it again. 

They returned with joy!

Is that how we see obedience? Do we count it as joy, no matter the circumstances? Do we rejoice when we serve God in hard or unpleasant circumstances? 

A few weeks ago, I attended a conference that was nothing at all like I expected. The accommodations were less than optimal and I quickly found out about my own sense of entitlement. It took more time than it should have to find my way to acceptance of the circumstances in which God had thrust me, but, once accomplished, something amazing happened. Through Christ, I was able to rise to the occasion. With His help, none of the circumstances mattered one bit. What mattered was that He was at work all around me and I was allowed to see Him, experience Him in new ways. At the end of the week, I, too, reported back to Jesus with joy, and now find that the experience changed me in some difficult to define, but very important, way. 

The sent-ones served and sacrificed for the Lord they loved, and it was worth it. We, too, will find that sacrifice and service, linked hand-in-hand, are not only worth it, they bring great joy. Jesus took those seventy sent-ones completely out of their comfort zones and made them completely dependent upon Him. He wants to do the same with us. You and me. He wants to use us in ways we cannot imagine, giving us joy in the journey more profound than we can comprehend. He will do it, too, if we allow it. 

What is it to which Christ is calling you? What adventure does He offer? Like the seventy sent-ones, why not step out in faith, accept the challenge, and follow the One who has already made a way? The circumstances may not be to your liking, but by the end of your journey, you, too, will be reporting back with great joy over all you have seen God do.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Sending the Seventy, part 20: Rejecting the Sent-Ones

"The one who listens to you listens to Me, and the one who rejects you rejects Me; and He who rejects Me rejects the One who sent Me."  (Luke 10:16 NASB)  

We read "When you have done it unto the least of these, my brethren, you have done it unto Me" (Matthew 25:40) and we understand that we have served Christ when we have served others. This verse, however, tells us something we may not want to hear. When we "reject" those whom Christ has sent to minister in His name, we reject Him.  We read about rejecting ministers and think to ourselves that we would never do that. "Of course, we do not persecute ministers," we think, but persecution is not exactly that to which Jesus was referring.

Matthew Henry wrote some very hard words that we do well to consider. "And they who despise the faithful ministers of Christ, who, though they do not hate and persecute them, yet think meanly of them, look scornfully upon them, and turn their backs upon their ministry, will be reckoned with as despisers of God and Christ." 

It's all I can do to read that, and yet it rings with truth. When God calls someone to minister in His name, He literally sends them in His name, or in His place. They are His representative. There are some ministers, just as there are some who are not ministers, who will be drawn into sin and live in rebellion. This is not written in reference to them. This is in reference to that sent-one who is a faithful minister. When we reject those faithful ministers, "think meanly of them", scorn them (even "behind their backs") and turn our backs on them, we are rejecting, scorning, and turning our backs on Christ, and on His Father who sent Him. 

The word translated as "reject" is atheteō and means "to reject, to refuse, or to slight." What does this look like in today's world? When we avoid worship service because we do not like the minister's style of preaching, we atheteō him and his ministry, and, according to this verse, we also atheteō Jesus and our Heavenly Father, as well. When we indulge in negative thoughts or complaining about the minister God has sent, we atheteō the minister, Jesus, and our Heavenly Father, as well.Whoa! That sounds harsh, doesn't it? Perhaps so, but Jesus was not just talking to hear Himself talk here. He is serious about His sent-ones, and He expects us to be, as well.  

The sent-ones were not sent to entertain the crowds. They were not sent to tickle their ears. They were sent to tell the good news of Jesus and to heal the sick. The towns to which they were sent were responsible for listening, receiving, and providing. The people to whom these ministers were sent would, ultimately, care for them as they did their own family by welcoming them into their homes, and we do well to take note of their response to the sent-ones. 

Those who minister in the name of Jesus will, of course, give account of the way in which they minister. Ministers are not called to be entertaining, and we should not expect entertainment. They are not called to preach pithy sermons with cute alliteration nor lead worship in the way to which we have become accustomed. They are called to share the Word of God in a clear manner and glorify Christ in whatever they do. Does the music glorify God? Does the preacher's message come straight from the Word of God? If so, then it is our job to respect their efforts.

We who are not ministers will give account of the way we treated those ministers. Did we grumble and complain that the music was not to our liking? Did we refuse to listen to the minister with a "boring" style? Did we reject the sermons because they were too deep or too shallow? Oh, dear ones, I am as guilty as anyone of not respecting the ministers of Christ as I should, but this verse has pierced my heart, bringing conviction and change.

Not long ago, I was in a worship service where the sermon was not organized to my liking and the manner of presentation was less than stellar. It was all I could do to stay in my seat through the entire sermon. Afterwards, someone mentioned a very astute insight the preacher had said and I was shocked. I had not heard anything helpful at all. The fault was not in the minister, but in the listener. 

If we are tempted to reject, think meanly of, and scorn the ministers God has sent, let us first examine our own hearts, then let us pray for His servants to glorify God in all they do, regardless of the skill and finesse with which they do it. Let's be sure we listen to Christ by our response to His sent-ones, and not reject Him.

The link to last night's story, Mamie Invents a New Game, is here.
We often want a "fast food" answer to our prayers when what we need is the "crock pot" solution that allows God to do His work completely, both in us and our situation. If you are weary in waiting for the answer to your prayer, here's something that can help. The Waiting: When the Answer to Your Prayer is Delayed and Your Hope is Goneis available here. Also available in Tupelo at Joyful Creations and Park Place Salon.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Mamie Invents a New Game

Mamie the Apprentice Wonder Puppy is a five pound Shih Tzu who just celebrated her first birthday. She is still a puppy, especially in the playing department. Her big sister, Maggie the Wonder Dog is six years old and not always in the mood to play. Maggie is very glamorous and playing is done on her terms or not at all. 

One of Mamie's favorite games is called "Maggie Tap". Mamie likes to tap Maggie with her paw to see what Maggie will do. Mamie can tap Maggie at least a dozen times before Maggie gets fed up and growls. I'm pretty sure Mamie is trying for a new record, so the tapping and growling lasts for a significant portion of every day. Maggie is more patient than I would be, but probably she's just grateful to have a break from Mamie's incessant "kissing" (licking). 

Recently, Mamie invented a new game. Maggie was yawning and Mamie clearly thought, "Why not?" She stuck her paw in Maggie's mouth and pulled it out successfully. Immediately, the race was on! Mamie would stick her paw in Maggie's mouth and try to pull it out before Maggie could close on her. Truthfully, Mamie is unbelievably good at this and incredibly fast. Of course, Big Sister Maggie is far more patient than three humans combined would be, and kindly refrains from biting her foot off.  

This morning, the Wonder Dogs had joined me on my bed for quiet time. Maggie is a well-trained Wonder Dog and understands when to be still and quiet. Mamie is still an Apprentice Wonder Puppy, mostly because she is wide open all the time and is very seldom still and quiet. Mamie decided to play the "Maggie Mouth" game, even though Maggie's mouth was firmly closed. Mamie would pat Maggie's mouth until Maggie finally opened it, then pop her paw inside Maggie's mouth and pull it out before she could close her mouth. (The fact that Mamie still has four paws is due to the magnificent patience of Maggie the Wonder Dog.) 

As you might imagine, Maggie soon had enough, and started to give a little warning growl. Mamie never heeds warning growls, however, so she kept right on tapping Maggie's mouth, popping her paw in, and pulling it out. The warning growls got a little louder. Mamie never slowed down. I gave her a stern warning and moved her, but she was quickly right back in Maggie's face. Finally, Maggie snapped at her. In Maggie's defense, she let Mamie get her paw out before she snapped, so she didn't even nip her. Mamie was shocked! How dare her sister try to bite her!?! The most surprising thing happened next. Mamie stuck her paw right back in Maggie's mouth, daring her to bite the paw. 

Mamie's behavior is so much like our own that I laughed out loud before I moved her off the bed to preserve Maggie's sanity. Watching her do something that is clearly not wise and will be dangerous to her paw if she doesn't slow it down reminds me so much of some of my own decisions over the years. Perhaps you've had a few of those less than stellar decisions of your own. Looking back, I wonder why I persisted when there were plenty of "warning growls" to let me know I was heading in the wrong direction. Maybe you've never done this, but I have to admit that I have. I, like Mamie, have a tendency to do one more round, just to be sure. 

Now that I have accumulated a few birthdays (being 39 again), I'm not quite as foolhardy as in my youth, but there are days when I'm likely as foolish as Mamie. If you are honest, you probably have those days, too. As we look toward the new year, let's take a lesson from the Wonder Dogs. 

Be smarter than you want to be.
Listen for the warning growls, and stop while you're ahead. 

Sending the Seventy, part 19: Capernaum

"And you, Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven, will you? You will be brought down to Hades!" (Luke 10:15 NASB)

These words come near the end of Jesus' instructions to the seventy as they prepared to leave for the journey. Jesus knew that it was exciting to be a sent-one, but not every experience would be easy. Not every town would receive them, He told the sent ones. They were not responsible for results, but for obedience to share the gospel. If they were not received, they were to shake the dust off their feet and move on. 

Jesus, Himself, had encountered similar difficulty. He had harsh words for Capernaum, where His ministry was centered. Peter, Andrew, and Philip were all from Capernaum and Jesus and the disciples were frequently in and out of the small town. Jesus performed numerous miracles there. Sight was restored to the blind, hearing was restored to the deaf. The paralytic was healed, demons were cast out, and withered bodies were made whole. 

The people of Capernaum not only heard the words of Jesus but also saw signs and wonders. They had a choice. They could embrace the teachings of Jesus or cling to the old ways, relying on sacrifice rather than relationship. Although Jesus offered freedom and hope, most chose the old ways and rejected Jesus. 

 Some of the towns, like Capernaum, where Jesus had spent the most time would gain little from His presence. God had blessed them extravagantly with His presence and honored them with the works He did in their presence. Rejecting Jesus was an option, but it came with a severe price. In the judgment, Capernaum would be "brought down to Hades." 

Every decision comes with consequences. Sometimes those consequences are good, but some are not. The decision to reject Jesus would have far reaching consequences for Capernaum that extended to the day of judgment. What we often forget is that every single one of our decisions has consequences, too. Every decision to obey, or not, is more than checking yes or no on a form. It has weight and significance. Embracing the truth of Jesus matters. Obedience matters.

As we begin our day, may we take advantage of every opportunity to serve Christ in obedience, embracing the freedom only Christ can give. 

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Christmas Favorites, part 2

On Christmas Day, I shared some of my favorite passages from Isaiah and promised more that evening, but am only just getting back to it. My son has been home!!! We had a marvelous time and (of course) writing is a bit lower on the priority list when he's home.

Here are a few more of my favorite passages from Isaiah: 

"For when the earth experiences Your judgments The inhabitants of the world learn righteousness." (Isaiah 26:9 NASB)

I've learned more about righteousness through the discipline of God than any other way.

For his God instructs and teaches him properly. (Isaiah 28:26 NASB)

God knows and will use exactly the right tool in just the right way to accomplish His purposes but no more than needed.

Therefore the LORD longs to be gracious to you, And therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you. For the LORD is a God of justice; How blessed are all those who long for Him. O people in Zion, inhabitant in Jerusalem, you will weep no longer. He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry; when He hears it, He will answer you. Although the Lord has given you bread of privation and water of oppression, He, your Teacher will no longer hide Himself, but your eyes will behold your Teacher. Your ears will hear a word behind you, "This is the way, walk in it," whenever you turn to the right or to the left. (Isaiah 30:18-21 NASB)

This is one of those passages on which I have relied for many years. Once we have learned what our Teacher intended through our hard times, we will see Him, recognize Him, in those circumstances. Even better, we will have clear direction for every step along the way. How about that? We can be confident of our decisions because we've learned to recognize that still, small voice!

I have more favorites, but maybe this is enough until next Christmas! We will likely chew on these truths for months to come. 

Sending the Seventy, part 18: Sidon

"Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had been performed in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the judgment than for you. (Luke 10:13-14 NASB) 

We began looking at this passage a few days ago with a brief history of Chorazin and Bethsaida, both towns where Jesus preached and ministered. It was in Bethsaida that the miracle of the second touch healing of the blind man occurred. Despite their familiarity with Him and the miracles He performed there, neither of these towns embraced Jesus. Both towns lie in ruins today. 

In part 17, we looked at Tyre, a wealthy seaport that trusted in its beauty and its wealth, for which it received the condemnation of Jesus. In this post, we explore Sidon, the city mentioned along with Tyre in the passage above. 

Sidon was a famous Phonecian seaport city-state located in what is now Southern Lebanon and was famous for its glassmaking industry as well as its purple dye (from the Murex shellfish). It was the mother city for Tyre. It is still an important City in Lebanon today. 

The first Biblical mention of Sidon is in Genesis 10:15, 19. Canaan, the grandson of Noah, was the father of Sidon, for whom the city was named. It was a portion of Canaan's territory. It, like Tyre, was eventually part of the territory of the tribe of Asher, but was never conquered. Instead, it was a source of continuing conflict and oppression for Israel, as well as a source of idolatry. Solomon entered into a matrimonial covenant with Sidon and the marriage ushered in his own idol worship. According to 1 Kings 16:31, Ahab also had a matrimonial alliance with Sidon via his marriage to Jezebel, daughter of the King of Sidon. 

In Joel 3, the prophet says that Tyre and Sidon made slaves of the children of Israel, selling them to the Greeks to remove them as far as possible from their land, for which Sidon will receive the judgment of God. Joel 3:8 tells us that Sidon will reap what they have sown and their own children will be sold into slavery. 

There is a beautiful promise in Joel 3:7, however, that gives hope in the most seemingly hopeless situations imaginable. 

behold, I am going to arouse them from the place where you have sold them, and return your recompense on your head. (Joel 3:7 NASB)

The Sidonians had sold the children into slavery, sending them so far that they could never get home on their own, but God not only knew where they were, He would "arouse them" and bring them home, allowing them to be an instrument of vengeance in His hand. This verse tells us that sin can never take us so far from God that He cannot rescue us and avenge us. Even when it appears that all hope is gone, that we are beyond redemption, God knows exactly where we are and what we are doing, and He is not only willing but also able to rescue and restore. 

Take heart, then, that the loved one who seems so far away is still under the watchful care of God. Press on with your prayers, waiting and watching for the day when God both arouses and returns the captives from the place of slavery. 

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Sending the Seventy, part 17: Tyre

"Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had been performed in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the judgment than for you. (Luke 10:13-14 NASB) 

We began looking at this passage yesterday with a brief history of Chorazin and Bethsaida, both towns where Jesus preached and ministered. It was in Bethsaida that the miracle of the second touch healing of the blind man occurred. Despite their familiarity with Him and the miracles He performed there, neither of these towns embraced Jesus. Both towns lie in ruins today. 

Tyre was a Phonecian seaport and fortified city, within the area of the Promised Land given by lot to the tribe of the sons of Asher. (Joshua 19:29) The city was famous for a particular purple dye (Tyrian purple) obtained from the murex shellfish found in the waters off its coastline. Because of its rarity, it was very expensive. 

Tyre was an extremely beautiful city and had the best of everything with unimaginable wealth, but it was a very prideful city. Ezekiel was instructed by God to take up a lamentation against Tyre. (Ezekiel 27:1 ff) The city, because of its location on the coast, was "merchant to the people of many coastlands." The passage indicates that the wares of Tyre included white wool, fine wine, wrought iron, cassia, and sweet cane, lambs, rams, and goats, clothes of blue and embroidered work and carpets. We can see from the passage in Ezekiel that Tyre received payment in the best the world offered. They also accepted payment from Javan, Tubal, and Meshech with "the lives of men and vessels of bronze" (Ez 37:13) This indicates an active slave trade in Tyre that had been allowed to continue. 

In addition to their wealth, the leader or Prince of Tyre was very wise, had accumulated great wealth through his wisdom, and ultimately was so filled with pride that he had declared himself a god.

The city has been conquered numerous times over the centuries. Now a part of Lebanon, it is predominantly Muslim. There is a Christian presence that dates as far back as the first century, when Paul stopped there on one of his missionary journeys. 

Jesus said that it would be better for Tyre than for Chorazin and Bethsaida when the judgment came. The pride and the decadence of Tyre, the arrogance of the Prince who declared himself a god, the slave trade, would receive less punishment than Chorazin and Bethsaida. How can that be? Tyre had the law, but not the physical manifestation of the Amighty. God Himself, in the flesh, came to Chorazin and to Bethsaida, however. He spent time there. He did amazing miracles there. The people could literally see God, and yet they refused to believe. 

What does this mean for us? First, we must be careful not to put our faith in beauty and wealth, both of which are transient, as the people of Tyre did. Instead, our faith must be in God Himself. Second, the people of Chorazin and Bethsaida also had God in their midst. They saw Him in the flesh. One of their own, a blind man, was left with sight as an ongoing attesting miracle. Despite this, they failed to recognize Him. 

Because of the Holy Spirit, we can know God personally. We can see His acts and be filled with His Presence. We can see, but the question is will we see? Will we look to ourselves or look to God for the answers of life, for our direction and purpose? Dear ones, Jesus is truth. There is no other name under heaven by which we can be saved from the consequences of our sin. May our prayer be that of the hymn writer:

"Open our eyes, Lord,
We want to see Jesus!"

(Robert Cull (c) 1976)

Friday, December 26, 2014

Sending the Seventy, part 16: Familiarity Breeds Contempt

"Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had been performed in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the judgment than for you. (Luke 10:13-14 NASB) 

This passage is filled with historical references with which we need familiarity to understand. We will take the two cities of Chorazin and Bethsaida first. 

Chorazin was a town in Gallilee located north of Capernaum and west of the Mount of Beatitudes. It is now an excavated ruin. Some sources say it was known for the grain that grew there. The olive millstones found in the ruins indicate a likely olive industry as well. Jesus spent time teaching and doing miracles in this city, but the people rejected Him, despite the miracles He did there. 

Bethsaida was the home town of Philip, Andrew, and Peter, possibly very near Capernaum, as it was a fishing village on the Sea of Galilee. An alternate possible location is on the Sea of Galilee at its northernmost tip, in the Tetrachy of Philip in an area now known as the Golan Heights. It was in Bethsaida that the second touch healing of the blind man occurred (Mark 8:22-26) and it was where Jesus withdrew for quiet time (Luke 9:10). There is controversy about the exact location of Bethsaida, but suffice it to say it is now lying in complete ruins. The people of Bethsaida had considerable contact with Jesus and His disciples because of the three apostles who lived there and yet, according to Scripture, they also largely rejected Jesus. 

It brings to mind the saying, "Familiarity breeds contempt." Perhaps because the people of Chorazin and Bethsaida were so familiar with Jesus, they were not able to equate Him with God. When we see God as distant and remote, it is hard to comprehend how intensely personal He is, isn't it? It must have been difficult to equate the Coming Messiah King they expected with the Flesh and Blood Suffering Servant standing before them. Even the attesting miracles Jesus performed were not enough to open their eyes, and we are left wondering what it would have taken to open their eyes and their hearts.   

We, too, have much the same problem, don't we? Because we in this country, especially those of us living in the Bible Belt, are so familiar with the church and have spent so much time around "church people", we can easily think of Jesus as just a baby in a manger who grew to be another "church person" with little to offer. In fact, He is God made flesh, now reigning in Heaven, and one day will judge the world. What would it take to open our eyes and our hearts to Jesus? 

He has already done all that is needed to redeem the world. There is nothing more that Jesus needs to do. The problem lies with us. Will we embrace His teachings? Will we deny ourselves and follow Him? In the wake of the celebration of the birth of Jesus, let us commit ourselves anew to follow our Lord and pray that He will open our hearts and our eyes to know and see Him more clearly. 

We often want a "fast food" answer to our prayers when what we need is the "crock pot" solution that allows God to do His work completely, in us and our situation. If you are weary in waiting for the answer to your prayer, here's something that can help. The Waiting: When the Answer to Your Prayer is Delayed and Your Hope is Gone, is available at Get your copy today.  

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas favorites, part 1

It has been my tradition for years to read the book of Isaiah during the month of December, though I'm often behind and finish my reading on Christmas morning. Today, I've been re-reading my favorite parts and wanted to share them with you. As we celebrate the arrival of the Babe in the Manger, may we never forget that the ultimate purpose of the incarnation of God was not the manger but the cross. 

In the year of King Uzziah's death I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called out to another and said, "Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD of hosts, The whole earth is full of His glory."

Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?" Then I said, "Here am I. Send me!" (Isaiah 6:1-3, 8 NASB)

The people who walk in darkness Will see a great light; Those who live in a dark land, The light will shine on them.

For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, On the throne of David and over his kingdom, To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness From then on and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this. (Isaiah 9:2, 6-7 NASB)

Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, And a branch from his roots will bear fruit. The Spirit of the LORD will rest on Him, The spirit of wisdom and understanding, The spirit of counsel and strength, The spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. And He will delight in the fear of the LORD, And He will not judge by what His eyes see, Nor make a decision by what His ears hear; But with righteousness He will judge the poor, And decide with fairness for the afflicted of the earth; And He will strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, And with the breath of His lips He will slay the wicked. Also righteousness will be the belt about His loins, And faithfulness the belt about His waist. (Isaiah 11:1-5 NASB) 

"Behold, God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid; For the LORD GOD is my strength and song, And He has become my salvation." (Isaiah 12:2 NASB)

For thus the Lord says to me, "Go, station the lookout, let him report what he sees. (Isaiah 21:6 NASB)

O LORD, You are my God; I will exalt You, I will give thanks to Your name; For You have worked wonders, Plans formed long ago, with perfect faithfulness.

For You have been a defense for the helpless, A defense for the needy in his distress, A refuge from the storm, a shade from the heat; For the breath of the ruthless Is like a rain storm against a wall. (Isaiah 25:1, 4 NASB)

"The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, Because he trusts in You. "Trust in the LORD forever, For in GOD the LORD, we have an everlasting Rock. (Isaiah 26:3-4 NASB)

Selah. Pause and consider. 

That's enough for this morning. This evening, part 2 of my favorite passages from Isaiah. 

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Sending the Seventy, part 15: Sharing Sodom's Fate

But whatever city you enter and they do not receive you, go out into its streets and say, 'Even the dust of your city which clings to our feet we wipe off in protest against you; yet be sure of this, that the kingdom of God has come near.' I say to you, it will be more tolerable in that day for Sodom than for that city. (Luke 10:10-12 NASB)

Jesus had sent seventy disciples in pairs to all the towns and villages He intended to visit. Their job was to prepare the way for Him by preaching the Kingdom of God and healing. The sent-ones, on entering a town, were to search for a man of peace. When they went to a house, they were to offer a blessing of peace. If it was received, they would stay there, but if not, the blessing would return to them. They were to accept whatever hospitality came their way. In exchange, they would provide healing for all those who were sick. The healing would be  the key that opened the door for the gospel.  

If they and their blessing of peace were not received, they were to leave, as these verses describe. Not only would the town miss the blessing of healing and the Kingdom of God, but also there would be a judgment to come. "In that day" is a phrase often used in Scripture in reference to the Day of the Lord. This is a time of a two-fold outpouring from God. There will be both judgment for the "nations" (the "world" or unbelievers) and tremendous blessing for the people of God. To be perfectly clear, the "people of God" does not refer to how people describe themselves but to how God sees them. This is not a reference to those who simply profess God with their mouths, but those who honor them in their hearts and lives as well. People of God refers to those who have a relationship with the Almighty.

Sodom was one of two cities mentioned by angels who visited with Abraham and described it as "their sin is exceedingly great." The angels had come to destroy the city because of God's judgment of their wickedness. Abraham's famous intercession for the city followed, and God agreed not to destroy the city if ten righteous men could be found. There were not, however, ten righteous men and the angels removed Lot, Abraham's nephew who was living in Sodom, taking him by the hand and dragging him out before destruction proceeded. The town was completely destroyed. 

What was the sin that was so severe that it resulted in destruction? Despite the belief of many that the sin was sexual in nature, Scripture describes t differently. Exekiel 16: 49 outlines the sin of Sodom and it is very clear.

"Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had arrogance, abundant food, and careless ease, but she did not help the poor and needy. Thus, they were haughty and committed abominations before Me."  Ezekiel 16:49-50 NASB

Did you get that? The root sins of Sodom were pride and greed. They had abundance and were so blessed that they had "careless ease". They didn't have to worry about provision because they were so wealthy, yet they would not help the poor and needy. They ignored the needs they saw around them and kept everything for themselves. Everything else that they did stemmed from their arrogance toward God.

God, who is incredibly generous with us, expects the same generosity of spirit toward those in need around us, and when we are not only arrogant but also selfish, we should not expect His blessing to rest upon us. The towns who rejected the sent-ones were in danger of a worse judgment than Sodom, which was completely destroyed. 

The lessons here are multiple. First, God does not always settle His accounts immediately. There would be a penalty for those towns that rejected Jesus, but it would come "in that day" and not immediately. It would appear to some that they were unscathed by their rejection of Christ. Second, our rejection of God's ways can have far-reaching implications, not only for ourselves and our families, but also for our communities. 

When our God dressed Himself in skin and came to live among us, He made it easy for us to understand Him and embrace Him, and yet many refused to receive Him. May we not be one of those. As we approach the natal celebration, let us welcome the Babe in the Manger and invite the Christ to dwell in our homes and our towns, allowing Him to have His way with us.
Here's the link to last night's post, a Christmas haiku. (This form of poetry is limited to seventeen syllables)
We often want a "fast food" answer to our prayers when what we need is the "crock pot" solution that allows God to do His work completely, in us and our solution. If you are weary in waiting for the answer to your prayer, here's something that can help. The Waiting: When the Answer to Your Prayer is Delayed and Your Hope is Gone, is available at Get your copy today.  

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Christmas Haiku

I went to town this afternoon with my son Ryan, who was just getting around to Christmas shopping. In the first store, I saw this book:

It reminded me that I hadn't written a haiku in a while. Could I write a Christmas haiku? That was the big question. Seventeen syllables isn't very much to express my heart about the Advent season, but I decided to give it a whirl. 

Babe in a manger

We forget you are a King. 

Newborn yet Timeless.


Selah. Pause and consider. 


We often want a "fast food" answer to our prayers when what we need is the "crock pot" solution that allows God to do His work completely, in us and our solution. If you are weary in waiting for the answer to your prayer, here's something that can help. The Waiting: When the Answer to Your Prayer is Delayed and Your Hope is Gone, is available at Get your copy today.  

Sending the Seventy, part 14: The Kingdom of God Comes Near

But whatever city you enter and they do not receive you, go out into its streets and say, 'Even the dust of your city which clings to our feet we wipe off in protest against you; yet be sure of this, that the kingdom of God has come near.' I say to you, it will be more tolerable in that day for Sodom than for that city. (Luke 10:10-12 NASB) 

If the sent ones were to "preach the kingdom of God", it would be helpful to understand what that term means. 

The ISBE gives this description: The Kingdom of God is not one "of worldly splendor and force, but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit; beginning in humility, and passing to exaltation only through the dark valley of contrition." We have an explanation in the Lord's Prayer, in which He prayed "Thy Kingdom come, Thy Will be done on earth as it is in heaven." The idea here is that, in the Kingdom of God (heaven), God's will is only and always done. When the Kingdom of God "comes" to us, the same will of God is done. When the Kingdom of God comes, righteousness, peace, and the joy of the Lord will fill our hearts. 

The sent ones were to preach about the coming of the Kingdom of God, and some of those who heard them would reject the Kingdom of God altogether.  What about righteousness, peace, and joy are not attractive? What about righteousness, peace, and joy do we want to reject? That three-strand cord of the Kingdom seems, at first glance, altogether lovely and appealing. Why, then, would we reject it? Righteousness. It is an appealing concept but a difficult reality, mainly because it requires change. 

The ISBE has said correctly that the Kingdom of God begins "in humility, and passing to exaltation only through the dark valley of contrition".  We cannot have the righteousness, peace, and joy without first having humility and contrition. (Contrition is a less-commonly used word that means being deeply sorry for your sins and repentant of them.) 

The problem, of course, is that we like our sin and we want to keep it. It seems a bad trade to keep sin and reject peace and joy, but we do, and often on a daily basis. We want what we want and are not willing to allow change to have something better. What madness! 

For those of us who claim to be disciples of Jesus, we should long for the Kingdom of God, not only on earth but also in us. Come, Lord Jesus, and begin Your work of cleansing and change in me. Much like the words to an old spiritual, it's "not my brother, not my sister, but it's me, oh Lord, standing in the need of prayer." We are the ones "standing in the need" of prayer, repentance, and change. 

There is good news, however. The Kingdom of God is near. We can have the righteousness, peace, and joy of God, but only if we are willing to begin in repentance and allow the transformation that only the Spirit of God can bring. 

The amazing thing about the Kingdom of God is that it has "drawn near" to us in the most incredible way. Wrapped in flesh, nestled in a stone manger filled with hay, the righteousness, peace, and joy of God came to us, dwelt with us, and died to redeem us. As we draw near the Christ Child this advent season, may we also draw near to the Kingdom of God. 

Merry Christmas!
We often want a "fast food" answer to our prayers when what we need is the "crock pot" solution that allows God to do His work completely, in us and our solution. If you are weary in waiting for the answer to your prayer, here's something that can help. The Waiting: When the Answer to Your Prayer is Delayed and Your Hope is Gone, is now available at Get your copy today.  
Here's the link to last night's post on embracing the imperfect and enjoying a less stressful holiday

Monday, December 22, 2014

The Perfect Holiday: Embracing Imperfection

Today is not an official holiday on anyone's calendar, including mine, but it's felt like a holiday. It occurs to me as I'm writing that it might actually have been a lot like a vacation day, but I don't know much about that. Vacations aren't really my thing, but, after today, I might need to reconsider. 

The reason this has felt like a holiday is not because of what I didn't do today. It's because of who did my usual activities with me. My son Ryan is home. He rolled in from Atlanta last night and I am thrilled to have him home! Every task has seemed easier because it's been shared, (especially my computer tasks)! 

Among other things, Ryan and I have done a little cooking today. Zucchini bread and egg custard pie were on the to-bake list. I'm not exactly sure what went wrong, but what we actually made is zucchini flatbread and eggless custard pie. Very yummy. Very different. Not at all what I had in mind. 

I hate to admit this, but there was a time when imperfect bread and eggless custard would have gone straight to the garbage and been replaced by another round of baking. How silly was that? Instead, we've laughed about the "new recipes" we've discovered, eaten them anyway, and enjoyed the variation. After all, variety is the spice of life, right?

Do you know what else is the spice of life? Imperfection. That's right. Imperfection is actually fairly entertaining and a lot of fun. I like perfect. Don't get me wrong. In fact, I prefer perfect. In my perfect (aka fantasy) world, every loaf of bread rises to lofty heights. Every custard pie is creamy and firm. 

This isn't a perfect world, however, and I'm not a perfect woman. In fact, you aren't perfect, either. Gasp! Can you believe I said that? I did, though, and I said it because it's true. The sooner we can exchange our fantasy of perfection for the reality of our own imperfection, the better life will be. The freedom to laugh at my mistakes and the ability to not just look for the good in any situation but actually find the good there are both wonderful prizes. They were not achieved without a fight. My pride and my control did not want to lose, but thank God they did! 

During the holidays, those of us who live in the fantasy world known as Perfection will have the opportunity to be totally devastated by the things that go wrong and make everyone around us miserable. This year, let's do things differently. Let's embrace the imperfection and enjoy the variation. Let's laugh before we even consider crying. Let's remember what the holiday is about. Jesus. The celebrations this week don't have a single thing to do with bread or custard, regardless of how perfect. It's all about Him, so let's hang on to that fact and let go of ourselves. 

Have a holy, happy holiday and a very Merry Christmas! 

Sending the Seventy, part 13: The importance of One

But whatever city you enter and they do not receive you, go out into its streets and say, 'Even the dust of your city which clings to our feet we wipe off in protest against you; yet be sure of this, that the kingdom of God has come near.' I say to you, it will be more tolerable in that day for Sodom than for that city. (Luke 10:10-12 NAS) 

These few verses contain sobering instructions from Jesus. When the sent-ones entered a town or village, they were to look for a man of peace. When he offered hospitality, they were to stay with him, accepting whatever he could provide. In exchange, they were to offer healing to all who were sick and to tell them the Good News of Jesus. There was the possibility that a town might not receive them. They might not find a man of peace, a warm welcome, or hospitality for their stay. 

Of course, the people didn't know what they were missing. Almighty God in the flesh had sent His personal envoys to give them a message straight from Him. He had sent men who could heal their sicknesses. It was more than anyone could imagine, and there were some who did not give them a second thought. The sent-ones and their message were rejected before they had a chance to deliver it. 

When that happened, they were to go into the center of town and make a proclamation where all could hear. "Even the dust of your city which clings to our feet we wipe off in protest against you; yet be sure of this, that the kingdom of God has come near."

I like to think that it was "one more last chance" but Scripture doesn't say that. What the sent-ones did with their proclamation is tell the people what they were missing. "The Kingdom of God has come near." Then, they were to leave. They were not to labor over-long in a place where hearts were hardened against them. They didn't beg or belabor the point. They left and went to the next destination. 

One man of peace could have made the difference in those towns and villages. One man could have prevented the destruction promised them for refusing Jesus. For some of the towns, there was no man of peace. There was not one person who would be the conduit through which the grace and mercy of God could flow. 

Selah. Pause and consider. 

The difference that one man, completely receptive and open to the work of God, can make is astounding. One man of peace could have opened the door for healing of all the sick in a town or village. One man could have opened the door for the gospel for an entire town. One man. One man or woman just like you or me could have made the way for Christ and blessed their town in ways even they could not imagine, and that is still possible today. We have no understanding of what a difference one person, totally sold out to Jesus Christ, can make, but this passage makes it clear that the difference can be incredibly significant. 

If that is true (and it is), then why aren't we more involved in our communities? Why don't we stand up for truth in a loving, generous way? Why don't we allow our homes to be a welcome respite for others? We have a great opportunity for good, and it is a tragedy to miss it. Dear ones, we must open our hearts and our homes to the work of God. Let Him make a difference through us. 

What does He long to do through you? The walk of faith is a grand adventure. Are you ready? Embrace the adventure!  

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Nibbling on the Cross, part 2

Last night, I wrote about the cross that is a part of my nativity set this year. (If you missed that story, you can read it here.) What I had started out to tell was a little Maggie story, so I'm going to try it once again. 

The "big" nativity set rests in a position of prominence on the coffee table. You can't miss it, and that's as it should be. Mamie (my five pound still-a-puppy Shih Tzu) has not been able to miss it either. Of particular interest to her is the wooden cross lying beneath the manger. She is not just fascinated by it, she thinks it's a chew toy. Several times, I've found wood chips lying on the rug beneath the coffee table, the residue of Mamie's chewing. (Once I realized she was nibbling the cross, of course, I repositioned it. Problem solved.)

Mamie's nibbling approach to the cross is a little bit like ours at times, isn't it? Don't we prefer just a little "nibble" than the whole dose of Jesus? "What?!?" you may be thinking. "Of course not! We want all the Jesus we can get!" Think about it, though. When I look at the words of Jesus, I'm shocked by them. He didn't pull any punches. We are to love the people who hate us the most, pray for them, forgive them. That sounds great when it's Jesus doing it, but when the rubber meets the road and it is US who's called to do it, it's not quite as easy, is it? What about deny yourself and follow Him is easy to embrace? Denying yourself and doing what Jesus has called us to do is absolutely the best life possible, but we don't instinctively know that. It's easier to nibble around obedience than to jump into denying ourselves wholeheartedly, isn't it? 

Ahh. Therein lies the rub. Nibbling seems like following, but it's not quite. Admittedly, nibbling may be the first step, but we can't stop there. At some point, we must move past experimenting with obedience and embrace the cross fully, committing ourselves to unreserved obedience. Oh what joy awaits when we give ourselves and our lives fully to our Lord! 

As we enter the natal week of our Lord, let us embrace the cross with all the enthusiasm we usually reserve for the babe in the manger and the festivities that typically surround this holy day. No more nibbling. Let's embrace fully the life He offers and the obedience it requires. 

It's a little early, but Merry Christmas, dear ones. 

Sending the Seventy, part 12: Healing the Sick

Stay in that house, eating and drinking what they give you; for the laborer is worthy of his wages. Do not keep moving from house to house. Whatever city you enter and they receive you, eat what is set before you; and heal those in it who are sick, and say to them, 'The kingdom of God has come near to you.' (Luke 10:7-9 NASB)

We are studying the passage in Luke 10 that relates the sending of the seventy to preach and heal in the name of Jesus, and looking specifically at verse 9 today.  Jesus gave His sent ones two jobs. The first was to heal the sick and the second was to proclaim the kingdom of heaven. It's important to see this clearly, because it is shocking in today's society. 

When the sent ones entered a city (town/village/community) they were to heal the sick. Healing the sick would give them an opportunity to share the news of Jesus. Healing the sick was simply a tool for evangelism and not the objective of the trip. If the town received them, they were to heal "those in it who are sick". There is nothing in this passage that says the sick had to receive Christ first, nor that they had to receive Him at all. The community's hospitality would be sufficient for everyone there to have a chance for healing. 

Selah. Pause and consider. 

This is the kind of passage we tend to rush past, for some reason assuming that it doesn't apply to us. Why would that be the case? Why would God use healing in this way for the twelve when they were sent and again for the seventy if He did not intend for us to use healing as a means of evangelism? I don't think He would. As a physician, I may regret this next sentence, but as a believer I have to embrace it. The seventy who were to heal all the sick in a town were not physicians. They did not have medication or a scalpel. All they had was a Savior and He was more than enough. He still is. 

Jesus made it clear that, when the Holy Spirit was sent after His return to heaven, his followers would be able to do what He did and more. What did Jesus do? Among other things, He healed the sick. If He healed the sick and we are to be able to do what He did, should we not also be able to heal the sick? 

Selah. Pause and consider. 

Some years ago, a respected medical journal reported documented evidence of restored sight and hearing after prayers for healing were administered. Miraculous healing does happen, even today. 

Why, then, do we not see this in our churches every time the doors are opened? I've pondered this for years. When the seventy entered a town, people who were sick either came themselves seeking healing or were brought by family or friends. Why don't the sick among us start by requesting healing? James 5 is pretty clear on healing. 

Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him. (James 5:14-15 NASB)

Is that true or not? 

Selah. Pause and consider. 

The word translated as "restore" is sozo and means "to restore to health, make whole". Everyone who asks for healing does eventually get healed, if not in this world, then in eternity. Perhaps, though, there is room in our faith for more of the miraculous. Perhaps what Jesus intended was that the miraculous would be used to open doors for the gospel, even in this country. I can't imagine that Jesus intended miraculous healings wherever the gospel is shared except in the United States. That makes no sense. I can't imagine that He intended only a small portion of the body of Christ or a few denominations to experience healing. That makes no sense, either. What, then, is the problem? What prevents us from being the beacon of light that draws those around us to the hope and healing that only Christ can give? 

Selah. Pause and consider. 

Let's open a dialogue. Let's see if we can't move closer to what Jesus intended the church to be. During Advent, we celebrate the miraculous indwelling of flesh by God Himself. From that humble beginning, a way was made for the Spirit of God to fill each of us. Let's take a step closer to fulfilling all that gift was meant to bring. After all, why would we not? There is no greater adventure than following Christ. This Christmas, let's embrace the adventure! 

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Nibbling on the Cross

A few days ago, I wrote about the nativity set and the babe in the manger's missing hand. Since I never know what I'm writing until after its done, I was very surprised about the hand and the poem. I thought I was writing about Mamie and the cross. 

You may or may not remember this, but Jesus' mother, Mary, had a lot to think about when He was born, so she saved it up and pondered it later. I imagine it took the rest of her life to do that pondering. Since I've always thought Advent is a magnificent time for pondering, that's what I was doing as I looked at the nativity set. Somehow, it seemed incomplete, because the reality of the situation is that Jesus wrapped Himself in flesh and laid in the manger for one reason and only one reason. The Cross. The manger didn't save us. The manger didn't set us free. The manger was just the starting point on His march to the cross. It was that spotless lamb of God sacrificed on the cross that paid the penalty for our sin. The cross and the empty tomb are what set us free and they were the reason for the manger. 

I might be wrong, but it seems like people prefer the baby in the manger to the Christ on the cross or the empty tomb. Maybe it's because babies are so cute and sweet and harmless. Babies change your life in nice ways (except for missing sleep for years). Babies are cuddly and make us want to coo. 

The resurrected Christ, however, is a whole different story. That is a God-man who was not messing around. He stormed the gates of hell, took charge, and defeated Satan. The resurrected Jesus is not just a warrior, He is the commander of the Angel Armies. No one is going to pinch His cheek and say how sweet and cute He is. The appropriate response to the resurrected Jesus is to get down on our faces and worship Him. In fact, in heaven, we will spend quite a bit of time kneeling before Him and singing "Holy! Holy! Holy!"

All that was going through my mind as I pondered the nativity set, and that's how I realized it needed a cross. I have plenty of standing crosses, but it seems that the cross and the manger were sort of intertwined in a way. Finally, I laid the cross down and set the manger on it. It looks very non traditional, but that seems like the way it should be. After all, the cross was, in a way, the foundation and the future of the manger. They are inextricably linked, and the cross casts a shadow on both Mary and Joseph, exactly as it probably did. 

This Christmas, let's do more than celebrate the baby Jesus in the manger. Let's celebrate the God-man, the Savior, that little baby grew up to be. Let's celebrate with thanksgiving that our Redeemer has come, He lives, and He is coming again! Hallelujah! Let's look past the manger to the cross and the empty tomb. Only then will we understand the life-altering importance of the blessed nativity. 
(PS - Check back tomorrow night for Mamie and the nativity set. I didn't write it again but had already posted it as nibbling on the cross before I realized it. Sorry for the confusion)

Sending the Seventy, part 11:

Whatever house you enter, first say, 'Peace be to this house.' ... Stay in that house, eating and drinking what they give you; for the laborer is worthy of his wages. Do not keep moving from house to house. (Luke 10:5, 7 NASB)

This verse is nearly impossible to understand in our culture of entitlement. For some absolutely crazy reason that makes no sense at all, we have been hoodwinked into believing that is it our "right" to be comfortable and content. It is not. There is nothing in Scripture about our "rights" to comfort at all. Even our beloved forefathers in this country, describing our "inalienable rights" did not list comfort or contentment. Their list is pretty short: life, liberty, pursuit of happiness. Liberty did not mean do whatever you want to do. Liberty meant "not a slave". "Pursuit of happiness" means that pursuit is the part we get to do. Actually achieving happiness is not guaranteed at all! That seems like an unusual way to start a devotional thought, I know, but we have to break free from our sense of entitlement to go where we need to go today. 

Jesus was speaking to men who were not accustomed to handouts. They were not accustomed to depending upon the charity of others. The apostle Paul would write a few years later, "But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel. (1 Timothy 5:8 KJV)" These "sent ones" understood that they were to provide for their families and themselves. 

With that in mind, look at what Jesus told them to do. They were to go to the villages to which He would be going later and preach and heal. They were not to take any money with them, nor any way to work for a living (no tools). "The laborer is worthy of his wages," He said. What they would be doing would be work, and they could expect at least a subsistence living in payment. Teaching, preaching, and healing may not be manual labor, but they are exhausting work, and all that Jesus expected. 

Can you even imagine what this must have meant to these men? They were accustomed to supporting themselves. For this journey, Jesus was saying, "This time, I will support you." He did not promise elaborate accommodations, but made it clear that they would have food and shelter. With that, they should be content. 

To be sure, there must have been the possibility of discontent, because Jesus repeated Himself. "Do not keep moving from house to house." They were to be still and stay where He placed them, even if they didn't particularly like it. His provision might not be what they had expected, but it was enough and they were to receive it happily. 

This has great application for our lives today. In our society of entitlement, it is difficult to overcome the mistaken idea that we deserve more or better. We need to embrace the truth of Philippians 4:11 and live accordingly: "...for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content." (Philippians 4:11 KJV) In whatever state God allows, like the apostle Paul, we are to be content until He moves us. 

At this time of year, there is a cultural impetus to want more, buy more, get more. We would do well to reconsider that flawed philosophy. This year, let's be content with what God provides. This year, let's be content. Instead of seeking more, let's seek less stuff and more Jesus. Be still. Be content. Thank God for whatever He has allowed.