1 Corinthians 13 Christmas Style By Sharon Jaynes

1 Corinthians 13 Christmas Style Sharon Jaynes

Today’s Truth:

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love(1 Corinthians 13:13 NIV)

Friend to Friend

With Christmas just around the corner. it is easy to get so busy with the cooking, decorating and shopping that we forget why we’re doing all this in the first place. Sometimes, the very people we love get lost in the hustle and bustle of packed schedules, holiday parties, and Christmas musicals. This Christmas, let’s keep our focus on Jesus and celebrate the reason He came.

Several years ago I wrote a Christmas version of 1 Corinthians 13 to help me keep my focus on what Paul deemed most important of all…love.

1 Corinthians 13 Christmas Style

©By Sharon Jaynes

If I decorate my house perfectly with lovely plaid bows, strands of twinkling lights, and shiny glass balls, but do not show love to my family, I’m just another decorator.

If I slave away in the kitchen, baking dozens of Christmas cookies, preparing gourmet meals, and arranging a beautifully adorned table at mealtime, but do not show love to my family, I’m just another cook.

If I work at the soup kitchen, carol in the nursing home, and give all that I have to charity, but do not show love to my family, it profits me nothing.

If I trim the spruce with shimmering angels and crocheted snowflakes, attend a myriad of holiday parties, and sing in the choir’s cantata but do not focus on Christ, I have missed the point.

Love stops the cooking to hug the child.

Love sets aside the decorating to kiss the husband.

Love is kind, though harried and tired.

Love doesn’t envy another home that has coordinated Christmas china and table linens.

Love doesn’t yell at the kids to get out of your way.

Love doesn’t give only to those who are able to give in return, but rejoices in giving to those who can’t.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.

Love never fails. Video games will break, pearl necklaces will be lost, golf clubs will rust. But giving the gift of love will endure.

Let’s Pray

Heavenly Father, thank You for sending Your Son, Jesus, that starry night in Bethlehem. I am still amazed at Your great love for me. May I not lose sight of the true meaning of Christmas, but celebrate Jesus’ birthday with joy! Help me to give as You gave—with love.

In Jesus’ name,

Amen.

Is Jesus Just Pretend? By Tracie Miles

DECEMBER 19, 2014

Is Jesus Just Pretend? TRACIE MILES

“But he replied, ‘I won’t believe it unless I see the nail wounds in his hands, put my fingers into them, and place my hand into the wound in his side.'” John 20:25b (NLT)

She looked up at her daddy with eyes filled with concern, trying to put into words the fears and doubts which had crept into her 3-year-old mind.

It was a day dedicated to prayer and worship at my niece’s Christian preschool where her father works and where they’d spent the morning praying for Jesus to join them and be present.

When the service finished, Berkeley tugged on her daddy’s shirt, and as he looked at her distraught little face, he asked what was wrong. Hesitantly, she innocently asked “Daddy, is Jesus just pretend?”

He was taken aback by her question, but gently answered, “Of course not honey. He’s very much alive and with us today.”

Berkeley replied, “But He didn’t come.” They had asked Jesus to come, and in her mind, He hadn’t shown up.

When my brother told me this story, my first reaction was a chuckle. How adorable is that? But my second thought was how even as adults, we sometimes wonder if Jesus is just pretend, simply because we don’t see physical evidence of Him when we want to. Even one of Jesus’s disciples, Thomas, doubted Jesus was really alive until he saw Him with his own eyes.

After the resurrection of Jesus, the disciples were meeting behind locked doors because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders (John 20:19), and Jesus appeared before them saying “Peace be with you.” He showed them the wounds in His hands and His side and they were overcome with joy.

But Thomas was not there that evening to witness this encounter. Since he didn’t see Jesus himself, he didn’t believe Jesus had actually shown up. In today’s key verse, Thomas stated he needed proof before he could believe Jesus was really alive and active.

I’ve been a doubting Thomas before myself.

I’ve spent nights wondering if Jesus was really with me when my heart was breaking, my mistakes were heavy burdens, and my problems seemed overwhelming. I’ve walked through days begging for Jesus to give me a sign, any sign, to prove He was with me. And just like Jesus showed Himself to Thomas, there was one particular day He showed Himself to me.

I was participating in a Bible study and instructed to do a timeline of my life. I half-heartedly began the exercise, but over the next hour, as I scribbled out decades of experiences, good and bad, my spiritual eyes were opened for the first time. I suddenly saw a picture of God’s handiwork, and how He had been at work every step of the way.

When they were written in black and white, I began to see the happenings of my life from a new perspective — as tangible proof of Jesus. They were no longer just memories, but experiences that all fed my life story and mapped out a divinely designed future, purpose and plan just for me.

Only after Thomas saw Jesus for himself did he believe He was alive. Similarly, when the proof of Jesus was staring at me from my scribbled paper, I could not help but believe either.

However Jesus wants us to believe in Him even if we don’t see the proof. In John 20:29b Jesus says, “Blessed are those who believe without seeing me” (NLT).

Sometimes we want proof that Jesus sees, cares and loves. But if we sincerely look for proof in our lives, seeking how and where He has been at work, what we see with our spiritual eyes will be so much better proof than what we could ever see with our physical ones.

Dear Jesus, I want to see with new spiritual vision how You have been at work in my life. Give me wisdom and discernment to see how You have been shaping me for purpose. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY: Genesis 16:13, “She gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her: ‘You are the God who sees me,’ for she said, ‘I have now seen the One who sees me.'” (NIV)

Joshua 1:9, “This is my command — be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” (NLT)

Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (ESV)

If You Ever Feel Lonely, Read This By Lysa Terkeurst

DECEMBER 16, 2014

If You Ever Feel Lonely, Read This LYSA TERKEURST

“Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. The troubles of my heart are enlarged; bring me out of my distresses.” Psalm 25:16-17 (ESV)

There were many feelings I expected to have at this conference I’d been looking forward to attending. Acceptance. Fun. Camaraderie.

On paper, these were my people.

They lead organizations. I lead an organization. They are vulnerable. I am vulnerable. Like me, they know the stresses of deadlines, trying to balance kids with ministry, and the nagging sense that we should keep hidden the fact that we have the pizza delivery place on speed dial.

Yes, these will for sure be my people.

And the great thing about gathering with people you just know you’re going to bond with is that they will get you. Really get you … like on the level of having inside jokes that makes every conversation comfortable and delightful.

I couldn’t wait to be with these people.

And I couldn’t wait for the deep friendships that would surely bloom as a result of our time together.

I walked into the meeting room and quickly located the table of the people I was excited to meet. Every seat had a nametag attached so I circled the table looking for mine. As I got to the last chair and realized my name wasn’t there, I got a sinking feeling.

I milled around the room looking for my name, feeling increasingly out of place. Finally, at a table on the opposite side of the room, I found my name. I rallied in my heart that the Lord must have a special plan for me to meet and connect with the others assigned to my table. I took my seat and pulled out my cell phone as I nervously waited for my tablemates.

I waited.

And waited.

And waited.

As the prayer for the meal concluded and the event got underway it became painfully apparent to me that the others assigned to my table weren’t able to come for some reason. So, I’d be seated alone. Very alone.

In reality, I don’t think anyone else really noticed my predicament. After all by this time everyone in the room was busy passing rolls and salad dressing options.

In my head I started to have a little pity conversation: Well self, would you like a roll? Or ten perhaps? It’s certainly an option when you’re sitting single at a table for ten.

And that’s when a very clear sentence popped into my head, “You aren’t set aside, Lysa. You are set apart.” It wasn’t audible. And it wasn’t my own thought. I knew it was a thought assigned by God that I needed to ponder.

To be set aside is to be rejected.

That’s exactly what the enemy would have wanted me to feel. If he could get me to feel this, then I’d become completely self-absorbed in my own insecurity and miss whatever reason God had for me to be at this event.

To be set apart is to be given an assignment that requires preparation.

That’s what I believe God wanted me to see. If He could get me to see this, I’d be able to embrace the lesson of this situation.

Have you ever been in this place? Maybe you’re there this Christmas season. It’s tough when everything around you screams “merry” while you’re aching with loneliness and feel anything but.

I wasn’t just in this place at the dinner that night. I’ve been in whole seasons of my life where, though I had people around, I felt quite alone in my calling.

Can I give you three thoughts that might encourage you today?

  1. Look for the gift of being humbled.

Proverbs 11:2b reminds us that “with humility comes wisdom” (NIV). In this set apart place, God will give you special wisdom you’ll need for the assignment ahead.

  1. Look for the gift of being lonely.

This will develop in you a deeper sense of compassion for your fellow travelers. You better believe when I walk into a conference now I look for someone sitting alone and make sure they know someone noticed them.

  1. Look for the gift of silence.

Had I been surrounded by the voices of those people I was so eager to meet that night, I would have surely missed the voice of God. I’m trying to weave more silence into the rhythm of my life now so I can whisper, “God what might You want to say to me right now? I’m listening.”

I know it can be painful to be alone. And I know the thoughts of being set aside are loud and overwhelmingly tempting to believe in the hollows of feeling unnoticed and uninvited.

But as you pray through your feelings, see if maybe your situation has more to do with you being prepared than you being overlooked.

There is something wonderfully sacred that happens when a girl chooses to look past being set aside to see God’s call for her to be set apart.

Dear Lord, help me see the gifts hidden in this season of loneliness. I’m believing today that I’m set apart, not set aside. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY: John 15:16a, “You didn’t choose me. I chose you.” (NLT)

“When I Lose My Patience with God” By: Christy Mobley

DECEMBER 4, 2014

When I Lose My Patience with God CHRISTY MOBLEY

“[F]or it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” Phillippians 2:13 (NIV)

ON YOUR MARK … GET SET … GO!

Hearing those words, I was always first off the starting block. Actually they were more like pieces of wood taped to the asphalt, but it was junior high; we made do.

It didn’t matter to me because I was the fastest kid in our seventh-grade class. I could out-run the girls and the boys any day of the week … except when it came to the 600-meter run.

Every year we had to go through something called the Presidential Physical Fitness Test. It consisted of a series of strength and endurance tests to determine each student’s level of physical fitness. Those who finished the assessment in a certain percentile earned the coveted Presidential Physical Fitness Award.

I wanted that award in the worst kind of way. I knew I could ace the other tests, but year after year one eluded me. The 600-meter run. It seems like such a short distance now, but for this lanky seventh-grader, it was a marathon.

Before we started, the coach gave us instructions to set our pace to finish the race. I thought, Yeah, I know how to pace myself. Fast! I’ll be around that track and done before the other kids hear the O in GO! Or, so I thought.

I figured I didn’t need to heed the advice of our PE coach. What did he know? I’d set my own pace. And I did.

After running my heart out for about 100 meters, my legs suddenly felt like rubber and my lungs like lead. I couldn’t go a second longer. Bent over and gasping for air, I watched out of the corner of my eye as each classmate plodded past me to victory.

Looking back, ignoring guidance and running as fast I could wasn’t the best approach. As an adult, I can still run too fast and get ahead of God’s plans. Instead of prayerfully asking God where He wants me, I speed ahead with my own agenda. And when I do, I’m like a fast-burning candle with a short wick. I burn out fast.

Our key verse, Philippians 2:13, tells us God has a plan and purpose for us, and He’ll get us where He needs us to go. In His timing. We need not try to beat Him to the finish.

I’ve heard that patience is slowing down to the speed of someone else. I’ve also learned I need to have a little more patience with God and slow down to His pace — the pace He has set for me.

I have to admit I was disappointed every year that I didn’t receive the Presidential Physical Fitness Award. But today, I’d rather finish my race at God’s pace and have the reward of hearing Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Dear Heavenly Father, I have spent my life racing ahead, and I’m exhausted. My desire is to be in step with You. Help me slow down to Your pace, so I don’t run past the place and purpose You have set for me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY: Ephesians 2:10, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (NIV)

Psalm 27:14, “Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.” (NIV)

Philippians 1:6, “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (NIV)

“I Want to Quit Ministry” By Lysa Terkeurst

DECEMBER 2, 2014

I Want to Quit Ministry LYSA TERKEURST

“… Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?'” John 21:15a (NIV)

Do you ever wish God would appear in the flesh and tell you exactly what He wants you to do in a situation? I do.

Sometimes I wish He’d hand me a piece of paper with clear, step-by-step instructions written out and personalized for my specific circumstance. And then He’d stay for a little Q&A session where He’d tenderly answer all my questions with deep reassurances.

I guess some people would say that demonstrates my lack of faith. And maybe it does. Or maybe my heart just feels incredibly vulnerable with some decisions I have to make, and I desperately want to get it right.

I love the Lord so much.

I want to honor Him with my life.

But sometimes I feel Him stirring me to do something that’s terrifyingly opposite of what I want to do. Left to my own choosing, I want to take the safe, certain and comfortable route. And then Scriptures march right up to my limited perspective and challenge me to walk a path I’d never choose on my own.

This question forces my eyes to glance toward that path: More than anything else, do you want to follow God and live His message?

Or even more deeply: Do you love Jesus and want Him more than anything else?

It’s this question the resurrected Jesus asked Peter at a crucial crossroads in Peter’s life. And gracious, do I ever relate to Peter.

He’d been following Jesus for years.

Then things got hard, just like Jesus told the disciples they would. Jesus gave them the clear hope to hold onto:

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world,” (John 16:33, NIV).

But isn’t it hard when what you see with your physical eyes seems contrary to what you believe in your heart?

Problems beg us to forget God’s promises.

Peter denied Jesus because he feared the cost of following Him.

Then circumstances got really hard. Jesus was crucified and Peter took his eyes off that hard path of continuing in ministry. He went back to what felt safe, certain and comfortable … fishing.

Then Peter got one of those visits from Jesus I wish I could have. Resurrected Jesus appeared in the flesh and could not have made it any clearer what He wanted Peter to ponder. With one question, He ruined Peter’s justifications to stay safe.

“… Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?'” (John 21:15).

Do you love me more than these?

We’ve all got our own “these.”

They are anything that make us look away from the less chosen path of following God with everything we’ve got.

So, back to my decision.

Last year, I wanted to quit ministry. Proverbs 31 Ministries had experienced tremendous growth and suddenly I felt enormous pressure that I wasn’t smart enough, capable enough or resourced enough to lead this ministry.

Everything was bigger, which made me feel like everything was scarier.

The staffing needs.

The budget.

The worries.

Gathering up my fears, I presented a strong case to the Lord to give this assignment to someone else and let me quietly slip away. I set my sights on what felt more comfortable and safe and certain.

But Jesus’ question ruined all my quitting plans: “Do you love me more than these … more than your fears … more than your desire to do something easier and less scary?”

So, here I stand, a girl with trembling hands wearing boots dusty from that uncommon path. I stand and proclaim, “Yes, Jesus, I love You more than these. I will live out the charge presented in Your Holy Word to, “Proclaim the message; persist in it whether convenient or not; rebuke, correct, and encourage with great patience and teaching,” (2 Timothy 4:2, HCSB).

I realize your struggles and decisions might not look like mine, but whatever they are, my team at Proverbs 31 Ministries and I are committed to meeting you at your point of need with the Truth that points you to God’s best pathway for you.

I pray this devotion and all the others we send each day help you hold God’s Truth close and more clearly discern God’s direction for your day.

I’m determined to persevere. But I’m also determined to recognize I can’t do this alone. Will you join us with your prayers and financial support?

This is so hard and honestly awkward for me to ask. But if I don’t, you won’t know Proverbs 31 Ministries depends on your support to do what we do each day.

I need your help and I thank you for letting me ask. Oh, how I wish we could have this conversation over coffee … maybe one day. I would love that. But for now, if you can join us, please click here for more information. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Dear Lord, I want to declare today that I love You more than my “these.” Thank You for reminding me to follow You even when it’s difficult. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY: Deuteronomy 6:5, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” (NIV)

Thank You, Thank You, THANK YOU!!

Well it’s that time of year again, Thanksgiving! I first want to wish everyone a very Happy Thanksgiving!! I hope everyone is enjoying the day and spending it with family and friends and staying safe and of course full with all that yummy food!! I want to just share with everyone what I am thankful for this year. Feel free to share or comment on what you are thankful for as well!

1) First and for most I am thankful for God because I believe that it is because of him that I have everything else that I am thankful for. I’m not going to lie though, it’s very VERY hard to be thankful when things don’t always go your way. When you are in the midst of storms or trouble or when you feel like you are lost and can’t find your way. I would be lying to you if I said that I don’t get angry with God. I get frustrated, confused, irritated, you name it but I think he can handle it. I’ve learned that we really can’t be this perfect image of thankfulness all of the time. He knows if we are faking it or not. Can you image if I just broke my leg and I was like oh thank you for this God, I know you are doing something good here…uh no I can’t imagine myself saying that but what I do have to be thankful for is that he is going to carry me through it. He is going to heal me and bring me back to where I need to be. I think it’s important that we keep our eyes on him. Do I get distracted and lose focus sometimes? Oh yeah, just like Peter when he walked on water and fell because he took his eyes off of Jesus for one second but the good news is he is right there picking us back up again. I don’t know how long it’s going to take Jesus to pick me up again and brush me off but eventually he will. I know I get impatient and I need to work on it but he’s teaching me. So with that being said I want to say thank you to God for being patient with me, for delivering me, for carrying me through my trials and tribulations as frustrated, impatient, and ungrateful as I can be sometimes, thank you for that father. I love you.

2) Second my loving and supportive parents. With who I’ve become and all I’ve done and been through I am thankful for them supporting me no matter what. Whether it’s me being a vegetarian or me becoming a Christian. Despite their own personal journeys or beliefs they still support me and I am thankful for that. I love you.

3) My boyfriend Anthony. He truly has been through the ringer and back with me. Truthbomb: I really have not been the best or easiest girlfriend ever. He has seen me at my worst and when I’m not the nicest person to be around but yet he still handles it and still shows and gives me unconditional love no matter what. I am thankful for him still giving me a chance and for being patient with me and demonstrating forgiveness and love. I love you.

4) My job. I am thankful that I didn’t just gain a position, I gained a second family. I work with supportive and loving people who genuinely care about one another. I can go to them with my problems and they will help me. They are supportive of my craft as a producer and they give me chances and creative freedom which is great for a producer so I’m thankful for them and my boss and spiritual father there!

5) My health. God has delivered me through some issues i’ve had but thank God that he carries me through and keeps me strong and healthy. I have my arms and legs and I can walk and dance and do what I love to do so I’m thankful for that.

6) My friends. I have some great supportive friends who also accept me for who I am and who I’ve become regardless of their own personal beliefs. I am thankful for the friends who have stuck with me through my hard times and been there for me no matter what the circumstance. I love them all!

7) My church family. They have been very loving and supportive. I thank both my pastors as well as the other members of the church. It’s very comforting that we can come together and pray for one another no matter what. We teach each other things and truly are a family. I love them all!

HAPPY THANKSGIVING TO ALL!! Remember “Thanksgiving is not a feeling, it is a choice!”

If the Daily Grind has Made You Blind By: Alicia Bruxvoort

NOVEMBER 24, 2014

If the Daily Grind has Made You Blind ALICIA BRUXVOORT

“O my soul, bless God. From head to toe, I’ll bless his holy name! O my soul, bless God, don’t forget a single blessing!” Psalm 103:1-2 (MSG)

We’d argued on our drive to the hospital.

Soon I’d be lying belly up on an exam table as my stretched-out skin was covered with clear cold goo. Soon we’d get our first glimpse of the baby tucked beneath my heart.

However, my husband and I couldn’t agree on one thing: Should we find out the gender of our baby or not?

His vote was yes; mine was no.

Two years prior, we opted for the moment-of-arrival surprise when we were expecting our firstborn. I loved the thrill of hearing the doctor say, “You have a boy!” after my son had entered the world on that momentous August day.

Since I was the one laboring, I figured I deserved a weighted vote. So, when the grainy glimpse of our wee one appeared on the ultrasound screen, and the tech asked if we’d like to know the gender, I stated my preference.

Rob didn’t dispute my final call, but he did leave the hospital with measurably less excitement than his victorious wife. In fact, for the rest of the pregnancy, he tended to the daily grind — went to graduate school, paid the bills, played with our toddler — but he seemed blind to the gift growing right under his nose.

As the due date neared, I looked desperately for a way to awaken my husband to the blessing burgeoning beneath my heart. That’s when my doctor suggested an ultrasound to check on the baby’s questionable size.

With Rob stuck at work, I drove to the hospital alone. The ultrasound tech greeted me with a smile and a mint green hospital gown. She dimmed the lights and the screen alit with a wiggling silhouette of our second child. My heart ached with the weight of wonder.

Then, suddenly, I had an idea.

I pulled a post-it note from my purse and asked the technician to write the baby’s gender on the slip of paper. She nodded knowingly and wrote something in slow, choppy scrawl. Next, she rummaged through a drawer and grabbed an envelope. She slid the post-it-note inside and sealed it.

That evening over dinner, I handed Rob the envelope and explained what it contained. At first he just looked at me with quiet confusion, but as he began to understand what I was offering, a smile spread across his face. He grabbed the envelope, excused himself from the table, and returned with a fresh sparkle dancing in those deep green orbs.

For the remainder of my pregnancy, my husband was a new man. He couldn’t keep his hands off my bulging stomach or wipe the grin off his beaming face. When our bundle of wrinkles and wails arrived three weeks later, we named her Elizabeth Grace, for we both agreed she was an undeserved gift.

Once the frenzy of delivery day had grown quiet, I listened to the squeak of the rocking chair and watched my husband cuddle our baby girl. Then, I asked the question I’d been harboring for weeks. “What finally got you excited about this baby?”

Rob kissed our daughter’s soft pink cheek and shrugged his shoulders. “I guess it was that little slip of paper.”

He glanced at the miracle in his arms and cast me a sheepish grin, “Once I knew we were having a girl, I began to call her by name. That’s what made her real to me.”

Sometimes naming a gift helps us to see it more clearly. Maybe that’s why God urges us to remember our blessings: “O my soul … don’t forget a single blessing!” (Psalm 103:2, MSG)

The One who is timeless invites us to carve out time to give thanks. Not because He needs our gratitude, but because we do.

The daily grind can make us blind.

It’s easy to go through the motions of life and fail to see the gifts planted right beneath our noses. But God has given our eyes a prescription: “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (I Thessalonians 5:18, NIV).

Naming a gift doesn’t change the gift; it just makes it real.

So make a list, tell a friend, utter a prayer or compose a song. Tell a story, keep a journal or post a praise.

Practice the habit of gratitude frequently and faithfully, and odds are, you’ll begin to see some gifts that have been there all along, blessings burgeoning beneath your heart, just waiting for a name.

Dear Jesus, I don’t want the daily grind to make me blind. Open my eyes to see the blessings in my life. Grow in me a heart of gratitude. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY: Colossians 4:2, “Pray diligently. Stay alert, with your eyes wide open in gratitude.” (MSG)