What if I begin the New Year with full assurance of God’s love?
What if I begin the New Year knowing I am in a right relationship with God?
What if I choose to look more like Jesus and less like the world in 2016?
What if I read and mediate on God’s Word every day?
What if I let go and let God?
Psalm 91 (NLT)
1 Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. 2 This I declare about the Lord: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him. 3 For he will rescue you from every trap and protect you from deadly disease. 4 He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection. 5 Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night, nor the arrow that flies in the day. 6 Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness, nor the disaster that strikes at midday. 7 Though a thousand fall at your side, though ten thousand are dying around you, these evils will not touch you. 8 Just open your eyes, and see how the wicked are punished.
9 If you make the Lord your refuge, if you make the Most High your shelter, 10 no evil will conquer you; no plague will come near your home. 11 For he will order his angels to protect you wherever you go. 12 They will hold you up with their hands so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone. 13 You will trample upon lions and cobras; you will crush fierce lions and serpents under your feet!
14 The Lord says, “I will rescue those who love me. I will protect those who trust in my name. 15 When they call on me, I will answer; I will be with them in trouble. I will rescue and honor them. 16 I will reward them with a long life and give them my salvation.”
“1 The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it. The world and all its people belong to him. 2 For he laid the earth’s foundation on the seas and built it on the ocean depths.
3 Who may climb the mountain of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? 4 Only those whose hands and hearts are pure, who do not worship idols and never tell lies. 5 They will receive the Lord’s blessing and have a right relationship with God their savior. 6 Such people may seek you and worship in your presence, O God of Jacob.
7 Open up, ancient gates! Open up, ancient doors, and let the King of glory enter. 8 Who is the King of glory? The Lord, strong and mighty; the Lord, invincible in battle. 9 Open up, ancient gates! Open up, ancient doors, and let the King of glory enter. 10 Who is the King of glory? The Lord of Heaven’s Armies—he is the King of glory” (Psalm 24 – NLT).
As I shop for just the right gifts for our family, as I lay awake pondering on all the activities of the season, as I decorate our home, as I recall loved ones who have passed,…there’s a longing in my heart to simply be with Jesus. Do I give the King of glory full entrance into the innermost and uppermost place in my soul? In all the “pomp of external ceremonies,” is there room for Jesus?
Matthew Henry Commentary
This psalm is concerning the kingdom of Jesus Christ, I. His providential kingdom, by which he rules the world (v. 1, v. 2). II. The kingdom of his grace, by which he rules in his church. 1. Concerning the subjects of that kingdom; their character (v. 4, v. 6), their charter (v. 5). Concerning the King of that kingdom; and a summons to all to give him admission (v. 7-10). It is supposed that the psalm was penned upon occasion of David’s bringing up the ark to the place prepared for it, and that the intention of it was to lead the people above the pomp of external ceremonies to a holy life and faith in Christ, of whom the ark was a type. A psalm of David.
Who is the King of glory? (Matthew Henry Commentary)
He is Jehovah, and will be Jehovah our righteousness, an all-sufficient Saviour to us, if we give him entrance and entertainment. He is strong and mighty, and the Lord of hosts; and therefore it is at our peril if we deny him entrance; for he is able to avenge the affront; he can force his way, and can break those in pieces with his iron rod that will not submit to his golden sceptre. In singing this let our hearts cheerfully answer to this call, as it is in the first words of the next psalm, Unto thee, O Lord! do I lift up my soul.
May we simply be with the King of glory this Christmas season.
This week I asked my grandchildren what they wanted for Christmas. Before they had time to answer, Max, our 4-year-old grandson, looked up at me and said, “Do you know that Christmas is Jesus’ birthday?” Touching my heart deeply, I responded, “Yes.” Then I asked Max what kind of gift(s) he would like to give Jesus. He instantly replied, “A heart box.” I said, “Oh that sounds very nice; I think Jesus will like that.” Pausing for a moment, Max continued, “How do we get our gifts to Jesus?” “And does Jesus have a cell phone?”
I believe Max’s question requires some introspection.
As we busy ourselves with gift-buying and endless holiday gatherings, let’s remember to intentionally celebrate the birth of our dear Savior, Jesus.
Max’s Heart Box for Jesus
Help children make a Heart Box. Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, fill the box with special “gifts” for Jesus. Place the box under the tree and open on Christmas morning. Family members take turns reading or sharing the gifts given to Jesus.
Suggested prayer: Dear Jesus, thank You for coming to our world. These gifts are for You, in honor of Your Birthday. For You taught us, whatever we do for those in need, we do for You.
Make a card for Sunday school/school teachers, etc.
Be creative! And let your child come up with his/her own gift ideas.
Store the heart box in a handy place, so that you can get it out every Thanksgiving.
HEART BOX FOR JESUS
Wood box with latch (Michael’s or Hobby Lobby), or make own.
Paint (Various colors, including red for heart.)
Picture of child
Shellac or Mod Podge
Typed label or handwritten (FOR JESUS) under the heart.
– Paint the wooden hearts and the wood boxes. Let dry.
– May choose to decorate boxes with markers, etc.
– Glue picture of child on hearts.
– Shellac (Mod Podge) pictures / and if desired, the entire box. Let dry.
May the Psalms draw you near to God.
“LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory in the heavens. Through the praise of children and infants…” (Psalm 8:1-2 NIV).
“Praise the Lord. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever” (Psalm 106:1).
Thanksgiving is a time to remember all the blessings in our lives.
Let’s begin now…and continue all year long.
Our daughter started a new Thanksgiving tradition last year. Their family makes a Thankful Tree. The children find a tree branch and place it in a homemade container and then cut out leaves made from construction paper. Each day the children and their parents write something they want to thank God for on a leaf and then hang the leaves on the tree branch. — Adapted from Changing Seasons In Me, article originally written Nov. 13, 2014.
I’m not fond of the winter months. In fact, my wardrobe is indicative of this, having many more summer clothes than winter. My hands shiver when walking down the freezer aisle at the grocery store…in the summer!
A thankful spirit often requires a different or new perspective on life’s familiarities. Otherwise, we may find ourselves taking for granted the blessings right in front of us….our family, the changing colors of autumn, a red bird perched on a snow-covered branch, and so on. While driving home from work the other day, my husband called and told me to look outside at the beautiful sunset. I ran out on our deck, only to be disappointed I had missed the window of opportunity.
To keep our children from missing the windows of opportunity, we (parents and grandparents) have the awesome responsibility to train our children to have watchful eyes, for the many blessings we receive each day. This takes intentionality! Children and adults not fully surrendered to Christ, are naturally self-absorbed and can easily miss the joy God intends. Looking at the world through eternal lenses portrays true and lasting blessings. The following story depicts two diverse perspectives from ten men who received the same blessing.
Jesus Heals Ten Men with Leprosy – Luke 17:11-19
11 Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy[b] met him. They stood at a distance 13 and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”
14 When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed.
15 One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. 16 He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.
17 Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? 18 Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”
After reading and contemplating the two varying responses to the lepers’ healing, ask yourself how you may have responded? Would it be more like the nine, or the one? I’d like to propose two diverse perspectives—the temporal and the eternal.
The temporal perspective:
“The nine” cleansed lepers missed their window of opportunity to receive an even greater blessing, far beyond their physical healing. Here are a few possible reasons “the nine” didn’t go back to thank Jesus.
Being in isolation for so long, their minds were solely focused on returning to their former lifestyle.
They may have thought Jesus was simply doing what He was “supposed” to do…heal people. Therefore, they took their healing for granted.
Some may have said something like, “I’m sure God wants me to get busy fulfilling the plans He purposed for my life.”
The eternal perspective:
“The one” leper who came back to thank Jesus not only recognized the miraculous healing in his life, he experienced the greater blessing—the presence of a loving and merciful Savior. His perspective was filled with overflowing gratefulness, a direct result of being Christ-focused rather than self-absorbed.
The following quotes are from the book, Love Made Perfect—Foundations for the Holy Life (1997), authored by Dr. William M. Greathouse (April 29, 1919 – March 24, 2011), minister and emeritus general superintendent in the Church of the Nazarene.
“Self-love is the disease of original sin.” “Idolatrous self-love is our sickness, but it is a sickness God wants to cure.”
To help our children develop a grateful heart like the “one leper,” I believe we must first explain that everyone is born with a sinful nature. The sinful nature will naturally dispose every human heart toward being self-absorbed. The only cure for a self-absorbed life is full surrender to Christ. I recommend reading Dr. Greathouse’s book, Love Made Perfect, for a fuller understanding of loving God with one’s whole heart, strength, and mind—a love perfected in us through Christ alone.
Secondly, we need to stop and “smell the roses.” I love this definition for the idiom “smell the roses.”
Take time to thank God throughout your day. Don’t let the busyness of your schedule or life’s distractions keep you from missing out on the blessings of life. Begin by thanking God for your precious children, spouse, friends, church family, co-workers, neighbors, etc. Practice pointing out the blessings of life to your children, as you drive along the road. The changing seasons exude with God’s blessings.
My new perspective of winter: I love sitting by a fire on a cold wintry day with my husband. Building snowmen with our grandchildren imparts cherished memories of innocent smiles and silly giggles into my heart. Christmas brings the greatest blessing of all, as our family gathers together to sing happy birthday to Jesus. God warms my heart throughout the winter.
Thanksgiving tablecloth. Using the same tablecloth every year, each family member writes what they are thankful for on the tablecloth. The little ones love to make turkeys as they trace around their hands. Use permanent fabric markers or pens.
Indian Corn: Our grandchildren help me place several kernels of Indian corn by each table setting. Before eating our meal everyone shares something they are thankful for and then they place a kernel of corn into a decorative basket. Our basket goes around the table several times because the children have such thankful hearts.
The first Sunday of Advent is November 29 this year (2015). There are limitless resources available to help families prepare their hearts to celebrate Christ’s birth. The Advent wreath is one of my favorites.
“Worship the Lord in all his holy splendor” (Psalm 96:9).
Splendor: great and impressive beauty (Merriam-Webster)
My husband recently surprised me with a dozen red roses.
One of the twelve survived the shock of over-fertilizing.
Underserved, I’m now delighting in its beauty.
Analogy of Christ’s amazing grace:
8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
My Jesus is due all my honor and praise.
His holy splendor is displayed in all the nations.
16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16 NIV).
Facebook friends: May the Psalms draw you near to God.
“1 Sing a new song to the Lord! Let the whole earth sing to the Lord! 2 Sing to the Lord; praise his name. Each day proclaim the good news that he saves. 3 Publish his glorious deeds among the nations. Tell everyone about the amazing things he does. 4 Great is the Lord! He is most worthy of praise! He is to be feared above all gods. 5 The gods of other nations are mere idols, but the Lord made the heavens! 6 Honor and majesty surround him; strength and beauty fill his sanctuary.
7 O nations of the world, recognize the Lord; recognize that the Lord is glorious and strong. 8 Give to the Lord the glory he deserves! Bring your offering and come into his courts. 9 Worship the Lord in all his holy splendor. Let all the earth tremble before him. 10 Tell all the nations, “The Lord reigns!” The world stands firm and cannot be shaken. He will judge all peoples fairly.
11 Let the heavens be glad, and the earth rejoice! Let the sea and everything in it shout his praise! 12 Let the fields and their crops burst out with joy! Let the trees of the forest sing for joy 13 before the Lord, for he is coming! He is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world with justice, and the nations with his truth” (Psalm 96 NLT).
“You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever. (Psalm 16:11)”
Anticipating beautiful fall foliage in Minnesota – JOY!
A professor once told me, “Don’t miss the joy in the journey.”
He was right!
Awaiting Jeff’s graduation from Bible College, we explored the
Colorado Mountains…cheered at volleyball games & homecoming courts…made new friendships…and experienced God’s presence.
By the saving grace of Jesus, I anticipate my eternal home with gladness, and thank God for granting me joy in the journey of life.
Facebook Friends, May the Psalms draw you close to God.
1 “Keep me safe, O God, for I have come to you for refuge.
2 I said to the Lord, “You are my Master! Every good thing I have comes from you.” 3 The godly people in the land are my true heroes! I take pleasure in them! 4 Troubles multiply for those who chase after other gods. I will not take part in their sacrifices of blood or even speak the names of their gods.
5 Lord, you alone are my inheritance, my cup of blessing. You guard all that is mine. 6 The land you have given me is a pleasant land. What a wonderful inheritance!
7 I will bless the Lord who guides me; even at night my heart instructs me. 8 I know the Lord is always with me. I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me.9 No wonder my heart is glad, and I rejoice. My body rests in safety. 10 For you will not leave my soul among the dead or allow your holy one to rot in the grave. 11 You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever” (Psalm 16, NLT).
Faith at Home Moment:
Living for Jesus brings great joy into our lives. Yes, at times we have sad and lonely days during our days on earth, but praise be to God, His presence is with us, filling us with hope, peace, and eternal joy in the journey of life. Our children need to see the joy we experience by living for Jesus. The Gospel is Good News! Take a few minutes each day reading through the Gospel of John with your children. Pray that God will fill you with His joy even in the midst of struggles. An oldie but goodie song to sing along with children: Joy, Joy Down In My Heart – http://www.psalty.com/track/687853/joy-joy-down-in-my-heart?feature_id=140418
Over the past several years, I've blogged about my greatest passion--intentionally passing my faith in Christ to the next generation, beginning with my family.
I've been married to Jeff forever! We love spending time with our three children, six grandchildren, two son-in-laws, and our dog, Pepper.
Jeff and I gratefully serve as Pastor and wife at St. Paul's Church of the Nazarene, Kansas City, MO; where people love God and each other.
Holding His Hand, my newest blog (2016) is dedicated to my mom, Audrey Lewis, who learned to trust in Jesus during her battle with cancer.