A Secret Worth Telling

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Deuteronomy 29:29

“The LORD our God has secrets known to no one. We are not accountable for them, but we and our children are accountable forever for all that he has revealed to us, so that we may obey all the terms of these instructions.”

Pssst! God’s got a secret! And when you know it, you will be accountable to live it out. Wanna know the secret now?

Growing up, I could always tell when someone had a secret. It was usually made very obvious. Hands covering mouths and voices in a hushed tone. Not so secretive, ironically. And when the secret was about you, all eyes would gaze at you with a less-than-complimentary stare. No, we don’t like to be the object of secrets.

But there is something about that hidden knowledge that is delicious to our flesh—especially if the spotlight is not on us. Bad news, though—gossip and secrets can do some damage. “A fool’s mouth is his ruin, and his lips are a snare to his soul. A gossip’s words are like choice morsels, and they sink into the inmost being” (Proverbs 18:7-8).

Those people talking about you? They will reap what they sow and their secrets are not worth repeating.

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Shame Off Your Gifts

Shame RX: The measure of a gift is the heart of the giver, not the gift itself.

1 Peter 4:10

Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” 

My kids like to tease me about some of the gifts I give them. They know my heart is to bless them, and I seek to know them well enough to get what they desire, but sometimes this bargain hunting momma can’t help it and can’t pass up a good deal. Let’s just say that some of the gifts I have given *might* not have been appreciated. Like the “momma jeans” I bought one of my precious girls. Designated as momma jeans because they um, lacked style.

Have you ever felt the pressure building as the time comes for the gift you have given to be opened—you wonder . . . will it be enough?

Enough for what?!

Enough for the recipient? Enough for the bystanders watching? Enough for the giver? And who determines whether a gift is “enough” and how is a gift is rated?

Shame. Again. Goodness. Just the act of giving is an act of grace and kindness. There should be no shame there. But shame lurks wherever there is an audience . . . unless we have stopped giving the audience that power to hold shame over our heads.

The measure of a gift is the heart of the giver, not the gift itself. When we give, we don’t do it for the audience, or at least I hope we don’t. We do it from a motivation of love, generosity, and thoughtfulness. We can let go of man’s opinion of our gift when we keep in focus our intention in the giving of the gift.

It is so sweet to remember that we are merely stewards. Everything we have was given to us and we get to take what we have been given and share it with others. How cool is that? May we do so without shame. How people respond to a gift does not determine its value. In all we do, may we give for the glory of God!

Shame Off You this Christmas, friends!

Kindling A Joy-Filled Christmas

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“Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy!” —Psalm 126:5

Ever been so filled with joy that you shouted? Maybe you felt a bit conspicuous after having done so, but oh, it felt good. This sweet release of proclaiming pure joy is like the rocks crying out in praise of God. If we don’t express joy, it will burst out at some point.

But it is likely that we do not all live in that place of continual joy. Not to sound jaded, but reality snuffs out joy if we focus on the waves instead of the Maker of the waves. We can easily fake smiles and put up a good front, but our hearts are not convinced of this inner joy we claim to have.

At Christmas, we can feel mocked by the bright sounds and colors surrounding us while inwardly we mourn the loss of the life we thought we had. How do we find this elusive joy in a world filled with hurt?

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BW#96 Re-gifting at Christmas: Forgiveness

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Colossians 3:13 (BSB)

“Bear with each other and forgive any complaint you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”

Have you ever “re-gifted” a gift you got at Christmas time? While some gifts might not be exactly what we want, the gifts Christ gave us are perfect. The question is, will we share and re-gift what Christ has given to us? Listen in to this episode as Denise and Angela share on regifting the forgiveness Christ has given us.

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SD#47 Advent Series: Finding Unfailing Hope in Christ

SD#47 Advent Series_ Finding Unfailing Hope in Christ

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Matthew 1:21 (NIV)

“She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

Christmas can be a hectic time, but we don’t have to let the culture around us dictate how we celebrate Christmas. As we celebrate the Advent season, this week we focus on hope. The hopes of this world die, but our Savior came and lives to give us a hope that never fails. Listen in as we unpack what this hope brings us that was revealed with the birth of Christ.

Order Hope Reinvented today!

Finding Our Identity in the Nativity

Copy of SD Blog 12-2-19

Acts 17:27-28 (NLT)

“His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him—though he is not far from any one of us. For in him we live and move and exist. As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’”

We were made for another world and have lost our identity. But God has a secret . . . our identities can be found again.

Between 6,000 and 7,000 years ago a decision was made to leave perfection, to leave a God who loved us and to leave an identity in Him. As time went on, God’s people pursued idol after idol trying to fix the desperate need in their souls to find their identity again.

And today people are still on a search for this sense of completeness. Lost in a world with seemingly never-ending options, none of it fulfills us because our Designer made us for Himself, not for temporary things that perish. And the idols and fake identities we choose don’t satisfy. They are merely creations themselves from fallen man.

Two thousand years ago a baby was born, a God-man, to save our souls and restore what had been lost in the Garden. This baby came to give us an identity in Him that we forfeited when we opted for a fallen, broken identity instead.

Those who had ears to hear and eyes to see understood that they could not save themselves and that no identity and nothing in this world could. Still, many did not accept this free gift of salvation and continued the futile search for life in nonliving things, or in people, relationships, achievements, roles, positions to fill this ache in their souls.

And here we are today. Nothing new underneath the sun. Maybe a little more updated, but the struggle is the same. Man searches to be his own God, to find his identity apart from God, and yet he was made in the image of God.

We don’t recognize that the identity theft on the rise today that we bemoan is also happening to our souls. An identity theft that reaches further than our wallet, to our souls. That place where man tries to find that place of peace and fulfillment apart from His Creator.

Still, our Savior came and He is coming again. Will we see what He accomplished in the Nativity? What His birth did for us and how it relates to our identity?

The enemy of our souls is the author of confusion. If he can confuse our identity, we remain preoccupied with self and miss out on a relationship with God and His purposes for our life. Understanding our identity is important. We need to understand who and whose we are to live a fruitful life in Christ. Confusion happens when we don’t have a right understanding of our identity in Christ.

Identity confusion is even causing people to try and choose their identity. Some are confused about their gender, something that truly there is no confusion about. God made two genders. No in between, no confusion:

Genesis 1:27 ESV,

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”

While others try to choose an identity from another race or another age. This is foolishness. God made us in His identity, in His image. We are children of God, if we have accepted His free gift:

John 1:12 (ESV)

“But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.”

Made in His image, this image was broken because of the sins of Adam and Eve:

Genesis 5:1-3 (ESV)

“This is the book of the generations of Adam. When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. 2 Male and female he created them, and he blessed them and named them Man when they were created. 3 When Adam had lived 130 years, he fathered a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth.”

But the birth of Christ restores what sin took away. Christ is the second Adam, sinless, who lived a sinless life so He could pay for our sins and then give us back our rightful identity as a child of God, once again.

1 Corinthians 15:22 (NLT)

“Just as everyone dies because we all belong to Adam, everyone who belongs to Christ will be given new life.”

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The Gift that Never Stops Giving

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

Joy from a gift given is temporary, but the joy from the gift of God lasts forever.

Scripture of the Day

1 Peter 1:8-9

8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” 

So, what did you get for Christmas? Did the longing for the gift equal the satisfaction you hoped it would bring? The joy from every gift is temporal, but not the joy of the LORD.

Throughout the day I have been thinking of you, friends who have chosen to stop in here for a moment each day to hopefully be refreshed as you press on to know God more. Writing this blog has been one of the greatest joys in my walk with God, and I thank you so much for joining me on this quest to go deeper with God.

As I thought about what I would say to you on Christmas day, “Merry Christmas” could not adequately express the greeting I wished to give. It feels a little “surfacey” for a blog that seeks to go deep.

Frankly, we don’t use the word “merry” all year long except for when Christmas rolls around, and it is a somewhat antiquated term. So, what is meant by this term?

A search on Google yielded these results: “cheerful, cheery, in high spirits, high-spirited, bright, sunny, smiling, lighthearted, buoyant, lively, carefree, without a care in the world, joyful, joyous, jolly, convivial, festive, mirthful, gleeful, happy, glad, laughing.”

Thing is, if we have lived long enough in the world we know about tragic events as have unfolded in this fallen world as well as in the life of my church in the past two weeks – two young lives tragically lost, a week apart, due to merely curving off the road and hitting a tree. Young children diagnosed with cancer. Spouses being unfaithful and breaking one another’s hearts.

How can simply saying, “Merry Christmas” bring the joy we hope it will? It can’t. A day can also not extinguish the hardships this life brings.But the message behind the term “Merry Christmas” is life-changing and brings a joy that nothing in this world can ever take away.

The gifts God gives us are temporary, as is this life, but the gift of His salvation never ever fades away. A secret joy is stirred in our souls that covers all the disappointments a fallen world brings. This life with all of its blessings and burdens was never supposed to be our joy. He is. His word, His Spirit are an ever-present joy to those who have learned to abide.

So, I wish you a Joy-filled Christmas and life, friends. When the floor beneath your feet is unstable and your heart longs for the pain just to stop, there is a joyful refuge we can run to, and it was revealed on what we now celebrate as Christmas. This joy, this gift, is not just on Christmas day. Jesus is ours forever.

Lord, thank You for the gift of Your Son. May we walk in the joy of the LORD every day of our lives, cognizant of Your sacrifice and love for us.

Healer of our Broken Hearts

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

Jesus came to free us from the burden of sin and to heal us from the effect of it, as well.

Scriptures of the Day:

Isaiah 53:4-5

“Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by Him, and afflicted. 5 But He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities, the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.”

Psalm 147:3

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”

Psalm 41:2-3

“The LORD will protect him and preserve his life; he will bless him in the land and not surrender him to the desire of his foes. 3 The LORD will sustain him on his sickbed and restore him from his bed of illness.”

Psalm 30:2

“O LORD my God, I called to you for help and you healed me.”

Life hurts sometimes. In our most painful moments we can hurt emotionally and physically and wonder if God sees. Broken, we come before our God and King Who is a Master at fixing broken people. He made us and knows more than anyone what we need to be whole again – Himself.

Healing is needed for many reasons. Some need God to touch them spiritually, some need help emotionally and others need a physical healing. In all of these, God sovereignly uses our infirmity for good, even though it might seem pointless at the time.

I know well what it means to be sick, diagnosed with multiple autoimmune diseases.  I also know what it is to be healed and what it is to not be.  In all these occasions, I praise His Name.  He is my Jehovah Rapha, (The Lord our Healer).  He heals our hearts from emotional pain, our bodies from physical pain, whether it be on this earth or ultimately in Heaven, and our souls from the pain of sin.

Healing is sometimes a difficult subject to discuss.  Some Christians believe that God always heals, some believe He does not.  Either way, all who are in Christ are healed spiritually for eternity, which is the most significant healing there could ever be.

We are all destined to perish on this earth, and sickness is often one of the vessels which might bring us to eternal bliss with our Creator.  Our bodies were not designed to live forever and our limit is 120 years.  This is not Heaven.  We cannot avoid the fact that we all have an end, but the sting has been removed!  Praise His Holy Name!

Sometimes the most difficult thing to heal is our broken hearts.  The effects of sin are profound and can leave one limping through life, but Jesus came to not only take away the burden of sin, but the effects of it, as well.  The scar of sin may long be remembered, but its crippling effect can be changed into a divine tool of healing instead.  That’s our gift this Christmas and for all of life – Christ our Healer.

Lord, thank You for healing us and for the hope of a complete healing in Heaven with You.  Help us to be content and worship You in whatever thorn you have permitted into our lives, knowing full well that our future hope with You is to be completely restored!

The Real Miracle of Christmas

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

Christ came in the flesh as a baby and Christ still comes today – manifest in our flesh as we yield our lives to Him.

Scriptures of the Day:

John 1:1-5

1 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was fully God. 2 The Word was with God in the beginning. 3 All things were created by him, and apart from him not one thing was created that has been created. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of mankind. 5 And the light shines on in the darkness, but the darkness has not mastered it.”

Hebrews 2:14

“Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death–that is, the devil.”

Movies abound today about the “magic” of Christmas.  Somewhere a child inside hopes it really is true that someone esoterically posing as Santa is the real deal.  Not so much.  But there is One Who really does know when we are sleeping and awake – One Who truly does provide for our needs and watches over us.  He certainly knows whether we have been good or bad and keeps a thorough record of it in His Book of Life.  Even more amazing, when we truly do deserve a boatload of lumps of coal, He gives us eternal life – freely.

But sometimes the miracle of Christmas can get lost in the simple fact that it is a well known story that has been told and retold and we forget just how amazing a reality the miracle of Christ’s birth is and what Christ accomplished in His birth.

Mankind was condemned to a fallen world, no thanks to Adam and Eve (well, we all would have done the same thing).  But right there in that moment, God knew we needed a Savior.

In His sovereignty He planned to come and Himself crush the head of our mortal enemy.  He did it as a baby.  Talk about the enemy being whipped.  

This baby was born miraculously, fulfilling prophecies, fulfilling perfectly the genealogy of Christ, born of a virgin.  A miracle indeed.  Holy.  Righteous.  Fully God and fully man.  How amazing.  Much more amazing to me than reindeer flying through the air – just sayin’. And this same Christ is now revealed through us, His people.

So if we are struggling to get that Christmas “spirit”, perhaps what we need is a healthy dose of the Holy Spirit.  Sometimes it is in the simplicity of stepping out of our ordinary routine to give that we have that “Christmas feeling”. How is God leading us now to give during this season? How can we help others around us? Christ modeled what it meant to serve by giving His all. May we do the same.

The miracle of Jesus is not confined to one day. We can search for opportunities to give and serve others not just when we feel celebratory or the calendar dictates the moment.  The miracle of Jesus lives on in the hearts of those who choose to accept Him.

Christ came in the flesh as a baby and Christ still comes today – manifest in our flesh as we yield our lives to Him.

What a miracle this is – Christ in us. When we operate in a manner just like our Father did – giving of Himself, we have the greatest joy, and it is a miracle indeed that He uses us at all.

Merry Christmas, all.  Be a part of the miracle in someone’s life this Christmas.

Lord, thank you for the miracle of Your birth.  I stand in awe of You.  Fill us with the wonder of what You did and Who You are.  Love you!

The Ruling Baby King

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

Instead of conquering us and ruling over us ruthlessly, God conquered our hearts and saved us.

Scripture of the Day:

Isaiah 9: 6-7

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end.  He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.  The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.”

Don’t be fooled – this King baby will reign.  Despite the enemy’s attempts to destroy Him, God’s plan stood firm.  Despite a supposed defeat by ultimately being crucified, He rose from the dead and is coming again, only this time to reign.  For spectators of a movie, this story is difficult to watch – the injustice of the wicked seemingly destroying the Holy One and His plan; the Almighty God coming in perceived weakness.

The Jewish people were looking for their King to come and rule – now – not in the future. But God’s ways are not our ways. In His wisdom, God came as a babe so we could understand His salvation more than a God far away.  Instead of conquering us and ruling over us ruthlessly, He conquered our hearts and saved us.  He is our LORD, our Wonderful Counselor, to Whom we can come daily and moment by moment.  His rule is righteous and just.  His rule trumps every other ruler or government in this world.

In those moments when the wise men, shepherds and onlookers gazed upon God as a babe, how filled with wonder they must have been.  How humbled to see their Creator coming in such a form.  The most hardened heart was surely softened by such a gift.  May we have this same awe in reflecting on our Jesus, coming as a babe to rule our hearts.

Lord, You are all-wise, all-knowing, Almighty God!  Holy and humble, perfect One!  I worship You and thank You for ruling in my heart and opening my eyes to see.