The Gift

You know what I’m talking about. The gift you spent days looking for. When you found it you knew it was just right. You made your purchase and took it home. You got just the right paper and wrapped it up, put a ribbon on it, and placed it under the tree. You spent the remaining days until Christmas anticipating the excited reaction when it was unwrapped.

The day arrived. You placed your perfectly chosen and perfectly wrapped gift into the hands of your loved one. With eyes glowing they ripped off the wrapping paper and opened the box. With a look of disappointment, they pulled out your perfect gift. They thanked you politely and set it aside. Then, with excitement shining in their eyes, they reached for the box.

The perfect gift. They shoved it aside to play with the box.

I wonder if this is what God sees at Christmas. He has carefully prepared and presented His Gift–His Son. He’s placed Him within our reach, and we carelessly shove Him aside. We reach for the meaningless things of this world.

As Christmas approaches I challenge each one of us to hold on tightly to the gift itself. To remember, appreciate, and thank the Giver. To remember that all those trappings of the season–all those boxes under the tree–are worth nothing compared to that carefully chosen Gift. JESUS.

Good News of Great Joy

Joy!

“But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people;” (Luke 2:10)

In the 1960 movie Pollyanna, Pollyanna’s missionary parents died, and she was sent to live with her controlling aunt in a town that basically her aunt Polly ran. Aunt Polly would even give the minister his passage for his sermon each week. Pollyana loved playing the glad game. She would look for the positive or glad side of things. At one point Pollyanna ran across Rev. Ford practicing his sermon, shouting and all, in the middle of the field. She told him no one owned the church. She also told him that her dad had told her there are 800 “glad” passages in the Bible. The next day Rev. Ford told the congregation about his encounter with Pollyanna and said she was wrong. There were actually 826, and he knew because he had stayed up all night counting and reading them.

A couple years ago I spent time looking up the word JOY in the Bible. There are pages of references. What this tells us is that God considers joy quite important. Let’s take a look at a few.

In Psalm 63:6-8 we read, “When I remember You on my bed, I meditate on You in the night watches, for You have been my help, and in the shadow of Your wings I sing for joy. My soul clings to You; Your right hand upholds me.”

Isaiah 49:13 reads, “Shout for joy, O heavens! And rejoice, O earth! Break forth into joyful shouting, O mountains! For the LORD has comforted His people and will have compassion on His afflicted.”

Jeremiah 33:9 tells us, “It will be to Me a name of joy, praise and glory before all the nations of the earth which will hear of all the good that I do for them, and they will fear and tremble because of all the good and all the peace that I make for it.”

These are just 3 of the passages that mention joy. In these we see singing for joy after meditating on all the things God has done. We also see joy because of the comfort and compassion He pours out. When we consider all that God has done for us, how can we not sing for joy.

In Luke 2:10 (the verse at the beginning) we see the angels declaring to the shepherds that they brought good news of great Joy. The newborn King had just been born. All of heaven was rejoicing, and now the earth could too.

During this time of year, it’s easy to focus on all that needs to be done, to think about how hard this past year has been, or about the loneliness you feel while the rest of the world is out having parties and fun. Dear friend, I want to encourage you. Take a step back, take a deep breath, and take time to reflect on the Christ of Christmas. Let each of us fix our eyes on Jesus.

Spend time during this season to talk about the things God has brought you through this year. End by thanking God for all He has done and sing songs of joy together.

“Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy…” (Jude 1:24)

Tell Your Story.
Praise God.

There are parts of my story (like the what I share here) that I tell frequently because I’ve met many women who struggle with the same issues.

Over the past several weeks we met individuals who shared their God stories. As we did, I was struck by the similarities. In each case

→Someone had an encounter with Jesus causing a change in their circumstances, forgiveness of their sins, or hope for the future.

→They went (or were commanded to go) home. Their immediate concern was the people who knew them and would be able to see the change in their life. And, as with Legion telling his story among the ten cities, they even shared beyond their hometown.

→They told (and sometimes were specifically told to tell) what God had done for them. They were transparent enough to allow others to see where they were without Jesus and the difference He had made. They intentionally shared their stories. (If you need help with your story refer back to “How to Tell Your Story” by Cindy Stevens or my post, “Storytelling Rules” .)

→The result of telling their stories was amazement, questions about Jesus, praise to God, and more changed lives.

As our Tell Your Story series comes to a close, we’d love to hear from you.

•What impacted you the most from this series?
•Have you had an opportunity to share your story (formally or informally) with someone else?
•Has your story ever caused others to ask questions about Jesus, praise God, lead them to change, or offer them hope?

Unless you take up your story and give God credit for what He did for you and how He forgave you, the people you meet may never have the opportunity to be amazed by what God did, meet Him for themselves, or praise Him. Share your story!

First post in series: Tell Your Story.
Previous post in series: “I’m not going anywhere” -jesus

“I’m not going anywhere”
-jesus

Have you ever gone from the mountain top of joy to the depths of despair in what feels like the blink of an eye? One moment all is right with the world and the next, it’s a very dark place? That’s how I imagine Mary, the character in this week’s “God Story”, felt.

She likely was part of the Jesus entourage coming into Jerusalem.  She watched as the crowds lined the streets and lay their palm branches before Jesus.  Her voice probably joined theirs crying “Hosanna”.

When you think about it, it’s ironic that they would shout “Hosanna” as Jesus passed. By that time in history it was just an expression like “Hurray” or “Woo Hoo”, but literally translated from Hebrew it means “Save us!” So imagine, crowds of people lining the street calling out to Jesus “Save us!” when a few hours later, these same voices would cry out “crucify him” –Still, underneath all that anger directed at him later, even though the words were different, the crowds were still calling out to Jesus, “save us”.

After coming into the city, things went downhill. Jesus was arrested, tried, crucified, then died, and everything Mary Magdalene had built her new life on was gone in a moment. That’s where our story starts. In that dark place where everything she had pinned her hopes on had disappointed her.

She was alone coming to the tomb early in the morning when it was still dark. She didn’t feel the cold, she probably didn’t feel anything anymore. All her tears were used up, she was empty, like a wrung out rag.  Not having much sleep over the last few days, she was exhausted, going through the motions of what needed to be done. Someone had to take care of the body.

But when she arrived… the stone was already moved and the body was gone. Even though she thought she couldn’t feel anything anymore, this caused her heart to race. Hadn’t these people done enough to this gentle man? They beat him, they tortured him, they killed him, and now they were going to desecrate his body?

Not knowing what else to do, she ran to tell the disciples that Jesus was missing then returned to the garden tomb, alone.

Mary had been so certain there were no tears left. If that was true, why were her cheeks wet? Still, she didn’t care, she just wanted Jesus back.

“Woman, why are you crying?”

The voice startled her. Assuming it was the gardener and not looking she replied, “If you moved him, just tell me where he is and I’ll go get him.”

What she heard next changed everything. One word… “Mary.”

She thought it sounded like… It couldn’t be. – Surly her mind was playing tricks on her… yet – when she looked – it was HIM.

Like an arrow shot from a bow, she flung herself at him.

“Teacher!” she cried, touching his face, his arms his hands. Was this real? She clung to him like a man clings to the edge of cliff. He was real, not a figment of her imagination.

After a while he said. “Mary, You can let go.  I’m not going anywhere yet.”

What an experience Mary had! Many of us, like Mary, have found ourselves in a dark place. Lonely, exhausted, empty, and hopeless. Surprisingly, Christmas can be just that kind of time for many.  We are so consumed by the busyness of the season or painful memories it’s like someone has “moved Jesus” and we “don’t know where they put him.”

I challenge to you this season to, like Mary, “Cling to Jesus” – hold tightly to Him during this season. Listen and believe it when he tells you “I’m not going anywhere”. Read this story for yourself in John 20:1-18.

(As we explore how to Tell Your Story, each contributor will share a part of their God story with us. April’s Story is here.)

Merry Christmas!

We’d love to hear from you. Share with us how you keep Jesus front and center during your holiday season!

 

First post in series: Tell Your Story
Previous post in series: Because of What You Say
Next post in series: Tell Your Story. Praise God.

Because of What You Say

“He told me everything I ever did.” That was it. Her testimony of Jesus. 7 words and yet that was all it took. (John 4:39)

An outcast so disgraced she didn’t even go to the well to get water till all the other woman were gone. Everyone knew her. She had sinned horribly, and no one wanted to hang around her. She probably tried to make as little a splash as possible wherever she went. Suddenly she started going through town telling about this man who knew everything  she had ever done. Wouldn’t you be amazed and perhaps curious about this man? (You can find the Samaritan Woman’s story in John 4:1-42.)

“So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. And many more believed because of his words.” (John 4:40) These people were amazed by her story. They wanted to see Jesus to try and find out for themselves if what she said was true. Because of this many believed.

Even if what you say isn’t making people believe, just making them curious can be enough to start them down the path to belief.

“They said to the woman, ‘It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the savior of the world.’” (John 4:42) The people believed at first because of her unbelievable actions and words. They had to go see this guy; then, they believed for themselves.

When I was younger I trusted my parents so I believed them when they told me about God. As I grew up and realized my parents were fallible, I not only started to doubt them but also God. You see, I believed through my parents’ faith, not my own faith. It took a lot to make me realize this. It took even longer to find my own faith in God. In other words I now believe because I have seen for myself and found that he is indeed the Savior of the world.

It is important that we tell our story but in a way that makes people want to believe for themselves not through us.

(As we explore how to Tell Your Story, each contributor will share a part of their God story with us. Leah’s Story is here.)

What do you think:

How can you interest people and point them toward God?

What is it about your story that would make people curious about Jesus?

Is there anyone in your life who is believing through you?

What can you do to encourage them to believe for themselves?

 

First post in series: Tell Your Story
Previous post in series: Go Home. Tell Your Story.
Next post in series: “I’m not going anywhere” -jesus

 

Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New International version®. Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™

Go Home. Tell Your Story.

What would you do if Jesus saved you but wouldn’t let you travel with him or study at his feet?

Legion’s Encounter with Jesus

A legion was a Roman army unit containing several thousand soldiers. Legion had earn his nickname because he was possessed by so many demons that when Jesus sent them into a herd of pigs, the entire herd (about 2,000 pigs) rushed toward a lake and drowned. (Mark 5:1-20)

When the story of this miracle reached the surrounding area, people went to see for themselves if it was true. When they discovered a perfectly normal Legion sitting and talking with Jesus, “they were afraid” (Mark 5:15) and “began to plead with Jesus to leave their region.” (Mark 5:17) But Legion “begged to go with him.” (Mark 5:18)

The Command

As interesting as Legion’s story is, I am intrigued by what Jesus told him to do and how the people reacted when he did as he was told.

Jesus told Legion, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” (Mark 5:19) After healing Legion—saving him—Jesus instructed him to return to where he lived before demon possession had caused him to live among the tombs AND to tell his family, former friends, and acquaintances—everyone back home—what Jesus had done for him and the mercy shown to him.

Obedience

Legion didn’t just return home to tell his story, he “began to tell in the Decapolis [the Ten Cities] how much Jesus had done for him.” (Mark 5:20)

Legion didn’t spend all his days studying about Jesus. All he knew was that Jesus had saved him. He didn’t just return home and sit in his living room sharing his story with those who happened to visit or attend Sunday worship services. He traveled the area surrounding his hometown and told whoever would listen what Jesus had done for him and about the saving mercy He had shown.

Jesus did not let Legion travel with Him, but He did give Legion something to do–go home and tell his story. He was to share what God had done. It can be much easier to study God’s Word than it is to share our stories, but telling others what God has done for us will help them see Him.

It can be much easier to study God’s Word than it is to share our stories, but telling others what God has done for us will help them see Him.

Amazed

Here’s the fascinating part: “And all the people were amazed.” (Mark 5:20) This man’s obedience in going and telling his story caused the people to be amazed. Our obedience to tell our stories has the potential to cause people to be amazed by God.

The Greek word used here for amazed is thaumázō.  It means to “…wonder at, be amazed… astonished out of one’s senses; awestruck… to regard with amazement, and with a suggestion of beginning to speculate on the matter.”[i]

By sharing his story Legion caused the people to be so struck with wonder that they couldn’t think straight. Amazed by the change in this man’s life, they began to speculate about the cause—about Jesus. Our stories can cause people to begin to think about Jesus.

Tell Your Story

Regardless of who God is asking us to go to, in order to accomplish the task, we must take that first step. We must go and tell our story—to cause people to sit up and take notice of the amazing change in our lives so they will wonder about Jesus.

Being transparent enough to tell our stories is difficult. We don’t want people to know our weaknesses, do we? But it is seeing God’s mercy through those weaknesses that will cause those around us amazement. Our stories are what cause people to wonder about Jesus. Like Legion, we need to go and tell others our stories, so they will notice God in us and be amazed by Him.

(As we explore how to Tell Your Story, each contributor will share a part of their God story with us. Trisha’s Story is here.)

Think about:

  • What has God done for you that would cause others to wonder about Jesus?
  • Where—to whom—should you personally go?
  • How can you share your story with that person or persons?
  • Do you spend so much time learning at the feet of Jesus that you do not tell others your story?

 

First post in series: Tell Your Story
Previous post in series: Who Touched Me?
Next post in series: Because of What You Say

 


[i]HELPS <http://biblesuite.com/greek/2296.htm>

Preparing our Hearts
for Christmas

Celebrating Advent

Welcome to one of the most peaceful, beautiful times of the year. Most of my life I didn’t really know what advent was. Sure we had different calendars that we opened the little windows or a green felt hanging that had little candy canes tied to it. Each night we would take a candy cane off until we reached the bottom with the little bell and then rang out that it was now Christmas. It was a countdown thing.

Several years ago, the church I was attending, started using the advent wreath and candles. In my mind at the time, it was something liturgical styled churches did. I really had no idea what it was. I was intrigued though. So, I started researching and studying to really figure out just what it is and how to celebrate.

The dictionary defines Advent as “the arrival of a notable person, thing or event. In Christian theology it is the coming or second coming of Christ. Preparation for the commemoration of the birth of Jesus.”

Here is how I define it now: It is a time of reflection and devotion focusing on the real meaning of Christmas. It is a taking time out of our busy schedules to slow down and spend some time preparing our hearts for what God has in store for us.

Would you like to take this journey of preparation with us? For the time leading up to Christmas as well as Christmas day, there will be devotionals to help lead us to the place our hearts need to be for this time of year. There will also be little activities you can do with your young children (if you have them) to help them prepare their hearts.

 

2017 Advent Ideas

Subscribe to Postcards (our blog) to receive our 2017 Advent Ideas. You will receive 4 emails (one per week) leading up to Christmas. These emails will include an Advent devotional as well as optional activities for children, all created by contributor, Cindy Snyder.

Subscribe in the sidebar or footer and join us this advent season!

Who Touched Me?

Picture in your mind shopping on Black Friday. You are in a very crowded mall. There are people everywhere, and you almost feel claustrophobic from all the bumping and jostling around. People are pressing in more and more. Then you hear someone say, “Who touched me?” What would your reaction be?

This is the story we read in Mark 5:25-34 and Luke 8:43-48. No, it’s not a crowded shopping mall on black Friday, but it is a crowded space with people pressing in on all sides. This dear lady had been bleeding (the Bible says hemorrhaging) for 12 years. Wow. She was in a desperate situation. She had tried everything she knew to try, and there was no one who could help.

She had heard that there was this man, Jesus, who could heal her. She quietly walked up behind Him through the crowd, not wanting to disturb the teacher at all. She may have been thinking, “Maybe, if I just touch His garment I can be healed. It’s worth a shot. What could it hurt? Nobody else can do anything.”

She did just that. She got behind Jesus and touched the hem of His garment. Scripture tells us that immediately Jesus felt the power go out of Him and said, “Who touched my garment?” (Mark 5:30) Did you catch that? Jesus felt the power leave with the touch of the garment. The disciples were rather shocked at Jesus. They started asking “You see the crowd pressing in on You, and You say, ‘Who touched Me?’” (Mark 5:31)

As soon as she touched Jesus’ garment, the woman felt the hemorrhaging dry up. She was healed. When Jesus asked who had touched Him, she knew it was her, and she came in fear and trembling, falling before Him and confessed it was her and why she had done it. Jesus told her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.” (Luke 8:48).

The disciples were shocked that Jesus was asking this when there was such a crowd. Hadn’t they been with Jesus long enough to know that He would know? The woman was healed. She was humbled. She confessed. Jesus said, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.” (Luke 8:48)

What about you? Have you ever been in such a desperate situation where you would do almost anything to positively change that situation? Where did you turn? Who did you go to with all of those burdens? Would you be willing to risk everything to touch the hem of the garment of the One who could help you? Turn to Jesus.

(As we explore how to Tell Your Story, each contributor will share a part of their God story with us. Cindy Snyder’s story is here.)

 

We’ve been talking about how our stories affect others, so in addition to the questions above, think about:

How does this woman’s story affect you?
Why did God choose to include her story in His word?

 

First post in series: Tell Your Story
Previous post in series: Get Up. Take Your Mat. Go Home.
Next post in series: Go Home. Tell Your Story.

 

Scripture quotations taken from the New American Standard Bible® (NASB),
Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. www.lockman.org