A LOVE NOTE

Christ summed up the commandments in this – love GOD and love others!  We (believers) have a tendency to get caught up in doing the “Lord’s work” and following all the “rules” that sometimes we forget to simply LOVE.  God loves us, and that love enables us to love Him, then we are able love others.  It’s that simple.

1 Corinthians 13: The Excellence of Love

If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part; 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. 11 When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. 13 But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.

I was reminded of this chapter over the weekend while attending a bridal shower.  Each of the guests were asked to give a bit of advice to the bride-to-be. My advice was to memorize and practice 1 CORINTHIANS 13.  This chapter makes the command of loving so much easier.  For me it made love easier to understand and apply (in my opinion).  It’s so profound, yet so very simple.

At times we can get caught up in our feelings, and as we all know those constantly change.  So it is important to keep these verses at the forefront of our minds at all times. We should keep this chapter hidden in our hearts (as God instructs us to do with all of His word).  This makes loving so much easier, particularly when our feelings are telling us otherwise and it is difficult for us to do.  

This chapter does not only apply to married couples, although I will say that I began truly clinging to these verses after getting married.  It actually applies to all believers, in all circumstances and situations.

I appreciate how Paul breaks it down into three different sections for us:

SECTION 1: It doesn’t matter how many good works and/or powerful acts that you peform – if LOVE isn’t your motive, they are meaningless.  This is a great place to  ask God to examine your heart (<-speaking to myself here too people). Psalm 26:2 ~ Examine me, O Lord, and try me; test my mind and my heart

SECTION 2: This section explains what love is and what love is not.  This is what love looks like.  For those of us who may not have been given the best example growing up, God provides us with a very (clear) picture. I love how God does that for us!  Does this section describe you?  Does your love look like this?

SECTION 3:  This section shows us that love is changeless, steadfast, durable and continual.  Love is everlasting. Love will stand the test of time and beyond.  It is something that will outlast everything else in life and never fade away.  Love supersedes all else!  If this is what God says about love, then I definitely want to keep it at the top of my priority list!  Paul also explains that we won’t fully grasp the greatness of love here on Earth, but for those of us who are in Christ, we will know love {true love} completely one day!

I hope you all are encouraged by this little love nugget today!  It is always a good reminder for me and pray that it was for you as well.  When it is difficult for you to love, please remember that it is not done in your own power, but God’s love for us and through us that enables us to love others.  1 John 4:19 ~ We love, because He first loved us.

Love,

~ Melissa

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We’re Not Out of the Water Yet

My family and I [do our best to] read through the entire Bible each year. In addition to our own personal Bible studies, we try to meet each night after dinner and read a chapter or two together, and then discuss our thoughts with one another. We’ve had a bit of an inconsistent start this year, but are slowly and surely making our way through. We are [still] in Genesis. Last week while reading the 8th chapter, I received a little nugget of encouragement that I’d like to share with you all. Hopefully it will encourage you as it did me.

Verse 1: But God remembered Noah and all the beasts and all the cattle that were with him in the ark; and God caused a wind to pass over the earth, and the water subsided.

But God remembered Noah. Let’s stop right here. What simple, yet powerful words! Ever feel like God has forgotten you? Ever feel like the storms and floods of life have consumed you and wonder if God remembers you? I know I’ve been there. I’d like to remind you that God loves you and God does remember you [and what you are going through].

Noah had great faith in God. Noah had enough faith to do what God said even though it didn’t make sense. It had never rained prior to the Great Flood, so Noah had no idea what that meant or what to expect when God told him to build an ark. He was also ridiculed by the people around him when preparing for the flood. People thought that Noah was nuts and made a point to let him know it, yet he continued to build the ark like God told him to.

The rains came and the flood waters grew deep – deep enough to cover the mountain tops.

I can’t imagine what it must have been like to hear the violent waves crashing against the sides of the boat, or the sounds of the people screaming as the flood waters came [and overtook them]. It must have been scary to feel the boat rising with the waters, and not having any idea what was going to happen next or when it would end. Talk about trusting God!

“But God remembered Noah” – I believe that God remembered Noah, because Noah remembered God. Noah honored God, therefore he and his family were kept safely inside the ark [along with quite a few other companions].

“But God remembered Noah” – God remembered His great love for Noah, as well as His promise to him and made the rain cease.

This really spoke to me. I thought about How God does that for us. If we’re obedient to God, then we can trust that He will remember us!  He will not forget us in the midst of the floods in our lives. Deuteronomy 31:8 ~ “The Lord is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”

Verse 2 & 3: Also the fountains of the deep and the floodgates of the sky were closed, and the rain from the sky was restrained; and the water receded steadily from the earth, and at the end of one hundred and fifty days the water decreased.

God remembered Noah, then [immediately] actions followed. We see here that God kept His word – as He always does – and the rain stopped. God closed up the sky and that was the end of the storm. What I found interesting about this verse was that even though God stopped the rain, the water didn’t dry up right away. It says here that the waters “receded steadily” from the Earth. God could have made the flood waters just miraculously disappear. I mean after all – HE is God. Instead, He allowed the waters to dry up slowly. Noah had to wait. There is something very special that takes in our spirits during times of waiting [waiting on the Lord]. Isaiah 40:31 ~ Yet those who wait for the Lord Will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.

Sometimes we experience floods [trials] in our lives and while the rain may stop falling, we continue to see and experience the after effects.  There are times when there is nothing more that we can [or need to] do. It is quite simply time to wait for God to complete His work.  Just as in the case above, it takes time for the waters to subside, the sun to shine, and the mountain peaks to become visible to us once again. It took 150 days for the waters to decrease in this case.

Has God spoken a word to you and you are waiting to see it come to pass?   Are the waters in your situation so deep and you’re wondering if and when they will ever decrease? May I remind you that – THEY WILL!  It may take time [in some cases a long time], but you will see dry land again some day. Just continue to wait on the Lord.  He won’t let you down.

Most of us know the end of this story. The waters completely dry up and Noah and his family come out of the boat and begin a new life. They started repopulating the Earth – and so began the Nations of the World as we see and know them today.

I’ve read this story many times before, but I never quite saw it from this perspective before.

I was reminded that what God says will happen – WILL HAPPEN.  I was also reminded that He remembers me. It seems so simple, doesn’t it? Yet, many of us forget these very simple truths.

No matter how high the flood waters of life may rise, God is still God.  The Great Flood was all a part of God’s plan all along and His plans will NOT be thwarted. Job 42:2 ~ “I know that You can do all things, And that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.”

Just know that He will only allow the flood waters to rise so high, and will protect His people [just as he did with Noah].  Trust the Author and know that the ending is good!

 

~ Melissa

 

 

Happy Birthday!

Today is my birthday!  Whoot!  Whoot!

I just love celebrating my birthday! It’s the one day of the year when it seems acceptable for people to make a huge fuss over me…to spoil me and treat me like a princess {or Queen for that matter}. I appreciate every minute of it!

What about you?  Do you love celebrating your birthday?  I’m always surprised that some people don’t get very excited when their birthday comes around each year.  I’m the type that begins the ‘countdown to my birthday’ about 30 days prior.  Some laugh because of my excitement over my birthday.  I personally believe that it is something that all of us should celebrate in a special way.  I believe that birthdays are God’s way of saying, “I still have a purpose for you on Earth.”  And doesn’t God say that long life is a blessing from Him? (Psalm 91:16, Proverbs 3:2)

I don’t know about you, but I am thankful for my blessing!

This morning as I was sitting quietly with the Lord, I began to ponder my life (my 30-something years here on Earth).  All of a sudden I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude towards God.  Why me O Lord?  Why am I deserving of this?  I thought about the years that I spent searching for satisfaction and meaning through people and empty things in this world.  I thought about all of years that I ignored God.  I thought about the time that I wasted on being selfish and seeking temporal things.  I thought about the times that I made really poor choices that could have ended my life. I considered what I deserve vs. what I have been given…and thought…I shouldn’t be here.  BUT GOD!!!  But God had another plan.  But God in His love and mercy chose to spare my life. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).  But God saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself.  But God had a purpose for my life – a plan to use me for His glory!  Why me O Lord?

Then the Lord whispered, “It has nothing to do with you, but everything to do with Me.”  God doesn’t deal with us according to what we deserve, but according to His loving-kindness; His goodness.  His word says that He does these things for “His Name’s Sake.”

God also reminded me of how He loves to use the weak things of this world to shame the wise; the useless things to reveal His power.  It’s all about Him!  I am so amazed at the way He takes the despised things of this world and makes them into something great.

1 Corinthians 1:28 ~ the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are…

This is my story!  God took me with all of my flaws, failures and shortcomings and called me HIS.  Most importantly, He gave me a new heart and a new life.

It all began with one simple decision to invite God to live on the inside of me, through accepting His Son Jesus.  It all started with me coming to my whit’s end and realizing that there is no way that I could ever truly be fulfilled {alive} apart from Jesus Christ.

Today, more than celebrating my physical birth, I celebrate my spiritual birth.  I celebrate the new life that I have been given through Jesus Christ.  God chose to redeem me; to save me.  He chose to place His Spirit inside of me, clean out all of the junk (an ongoing process) and fill me with His goodness.  I celebrate these things!  I celebrate my new life!

While our physical birthdays are fun, the most important birthday is the one where WE BECOME BORN AGAIN SPIRITUALLY!  In John 3:3, Jesus says to Nicodemus, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”  THIS IS A REAL BIRTH DAY!

The Bible also tells us that the angels actually celebrate with us when we have a spiritual birthday.  Luke 15:10 ~ “In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

If you have NOT had a spiritual birthday, you are {like a} zombie, aimlessly walking around Earth; dead.

Ephesians 2:4-5 ~ But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ.  We ALL need to be born again!

Would you like to join me in celebrating your birthday today?  If you have not already made Jesus LORD of your life and accepted Him as your personal SAVIOR, I’d like to invite you to do so today.  It’s quite simple.  God requires only two things (Romans 10:9-10):

1) That you {honestly and genuinely} believe in your heart that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, whose holy blood was shed for the sins of humanity (for YOUR sins), and that He raised from the dead.

2) That you confess with your mouth (the things that you already believe in your heart) that Jesus is Lord!

If you have done this, then I’d like to be the first to say – HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU!  I celebrate with you, and pray that you have a wonderful day as this TRULY is the beginning of a whole new life!

Love,

Melissa

Breakfast with God

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My home is quiet once again! Yay!  My children went back to school after their 2-week long Winter break and my husband went back to work after about a 4-month long hiatus.  I love my family dearly, but so appreciate a nice quiet home and special alone time with my God.

This morning I happened to wake up with a song in my heart – Great is Thy Faithfulness.  I just love when that happens.  Does that ever happen to you?  Ever wake up with a song on your heart?  It’s like God is giving us a special message to prepare us for the day ahead; something to think about throughout the day.  Songs are an easy way for us to remember things, so I believe many times God uses that method of speaking to us in order to get His point across.

While I was singing ‘Great is Thy Faithfulness’ I made my way downstairs to prepare breakfast for myself.  Nothing fancy, just a nice bowl of cereal and freshly brewed coffee [I just started drinking coffee, and it has become one of my favorite things].  After that, I went to sit down at our dining room table in the large comfy chair that faces the back of our home.  I like being able to look outside when I eat breakfast and admire all the beautiful trees [although they are pretty bare now].  Every once in a while I see a red robin, a rabbit or even a deer pass by…oh so nice.

“Aaaaahhhhh….thank you Lord” I said.  Just to be able to relax and take some time to be silent feels so good.  Many times that’s all our soul needs is just a little quiet time with God without any distractions.

I also opened up my Bible and spent some time reading.  In between reading, I spoke to God and asked Him questions; questions about the things I was reading and even seeking His direction for my life and for this day.

After my breakfast and my time with God, I felt completely refreshed, motivated and ready to tackle the day ahead.  I felt physically and spiritually nourished.   My mind was clear and I was able to focus on the tasks ahead.  I felt God’s presence immediately. I knew that no matter what this day brought, the Lord was with me.  What a wonderful feeling!  Oh, how I love having breakfast with God.  It’s the one time of day when no one else is around and I am able to enjoy special quality time with my Lord and my Savior.

What about you?  When is the last time you had breakfast with God?

I know that many of you have very busy schedules.  With work, school, families, homes and everything else in life, it’s hard to find time to spend with God. The idea of having a sit down breakfast with Him seems almost impossible for many of us.  So, maybe breakfast won’t work for you.  What about lunch, dinner or a mid-night snack?

When I was a single mother working full-time, I found it a bit challenging to fit in alone time with my Lord.  I worked all day and when I came home, I was busy taking care of my sons.  I learned that having lunch with God worked best for me.  Most of the time I would “brown bag” it to work, grab my Bible and sneak away to a park somewhere in the middle of the day….just me and the Lord!  I always came back with a clear mind and a burst of energy to finish out the rest of my work day.  There is something so therapeutic about spending time with Jesus.  There is just nothing else on Earth like it.

Is it necessary to have a sit down meal with God?  No.  Although, I find something so special about doing so.  Additionally, the Bible talks about it on a few occasions.  Look at Revelation 3:20…

Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.

Interesting, right?  I thought so too.  Of all of the things that Jesus could have said he wants to come in and do, He chose dining with us.  One Bible version says sup, another eat, and yet another share a meal.  Clearly all meaning the same thing.

How about all of the times when Jesus sat down and ate with His disciples?  I recall one very special meal referred to as The Last Supper. Then after He died and prior to ascending to Heaven, Jesus chose to eat with two men on the road to Emmaus.  One thing I find interesting about this instance was the fact that the men didn’t recognize Jesus until AFTER they ate with Him .  After dining with Jesus their eyes were opened and they had a new realization of who He was (Luke 24:30-31).  I wonder how many things God wants to reveal to us that we miss out on, because we don’t take the time to sit down and dine with Him.

The Bible mentions another important meal – The Marriage Supper of the Lamb!  This is a feast for those of us who are saved, and takes place in Heaven with Jesus.  We get to dine with our Lord and Savior (Revelation 19:9).   What an amazing meal that will be.  I so look forward to that day!

I believe that there is definitely something special about having a meal with our God; a way of connecting with Him on another level.  Maybe a meal is out of the question for you, but is there a time of day that you could designate to sit quietly before the Lord?  To read His word, and talk to and listen to Him?

I’d like to encourage you to spend some time with the Lord today.  Some quiet time.  Some private time.  Share a meal with Him.  Share your thoughts with Him. Set aside some time for Jesus. I guarantee you will be blessed!

How Do You Like Your Coffee?

Are you a coffee drinker?  Up until recently I was not.  As a matter of fact I thought coffee tasted terrible and couldn’t understand why so many people were FANS of it.  My friends would often try to convince me to drink it by offering all sorts of delicious trimmings.  The trimmings included things such as cream, sugar, chocolate, flavored creamers and even liquor.  One person even suggested I add lots of sugar – 6 packs to be exact.  None of these things worked and I still was not convinced.

A few months ago I saw a segment on the Dr. Oz Show about the health benefits of coffee, and decided to give it (yet) another try.  I am willing to do almost anything if it is beneficial for my health.  Shortly after watching the show, I asked my husband to pick up a coffee for me on his way home from work, and he did.  He brought me home a small ice coffee from Dunkin Donuts that included a turbo shot of Espresso and one pack of sugar.  It tasted okay.  A little bitter, but doable.  Even though I wasn’t completely sold on the taste, it wasn’t as bad as I expected.  I was so motivated by the health benefits that I didn’t really care about the taste as much anymore.  I likened it to taking vitamins or medicine.  They don’t always taste good, but they keep us healthy.

So, it’s been a few months now and I continue to enjoy my little weekly coffee treats.  Two weeks ago I stopped adding the sugar and I now drink it black.  My taste buds have adapted to the taste of coffee so much that I no longer need sugar to cover up the bitterness.  I now appreciate the taste of black coffee and love the benefits that I receive.

God reminded me of a couple of things through this experience.  One, that many of us don’t automatically have a taste for His word.  Two, that many of us want the word of God sweetened up and can’t take it straight.

You are probably wondering how I got that from drinking coffee.

Well, the coffee represents God’s Word (The Bible).  The sugar, cream, liquor and anything else that we add to coffee represents the things that we use to mask the taste of God’s word – to make it more palatable.

God’s word in and of itself is full of benefits…too many to list here.  These benefits however, can only be experienced when God’s word is ingested.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 ~ All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.

When we add things to God’s word or try to change it in order to make it more appetitive, it takes away from its effectiveness.  In fact, Jesus is very clear that we are NOT to do this.

Revelation 22:18 ~ I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book…

God doesn’t need our help to make His word more appealing.  He doesn’t need us to tweak it a bit by adding sweetness here and there.  He doesn’t need us to soften it up in order to make people want to try it. Like coffee, God’s word is powerful and the benefits are in receiving His word straight.  God’s word is PERFECT JUST THE WAY IT IS!  The reason God’s word is perfect is because He is perfect!

Psalm 34:8 ~ O taste and see that the LORD is good; how blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!

Like the coffee, I didn’t readily receive God’s word at first.   It seemed a little bitter to me.  I only wanted to hear it if it was wrapped in a sweet package.  I only wanted to read the things in God’s word that were nice and pleasing to my ears. If it didn’t make me feel warm and fuzzy inside, I didn’t want it.  The truth is I learned some not so nice things about myself through reading God’s word.  There were times when God’s word didn’t condone my lifestyle and made me feel guilty about the way I was living.  There were times when God requested something of me that wasn’t easy to do; challenging me to come out of my comfort zone.  So much of the time I didn’t even understand what God was saying through His word, but  I believed that it was beneficial for me, so I pressed on. I continued to take in my daily dose of Bible and after a while I actually enjoyed it.  I acquired a taste for God’s word like never before.  I began craving it more every day.  Just like the coffee, today I enjoy God’s word straight.  It no longer seems bitter to me.  I can’t imagine going a day without speaking to my Creator and hearing from Him through His perfect word.

Today, I’d like to encourage you to acquire a taste for God’s word.  Seek God and learn to enjoy His word straight.  While there isn’t anything wrong with adding a little sweetness or flavoring to God’s word to help it go down a little easier.  There is something wrong if we become too dependent on those things (ex. adding 6 packs of sugar to your coffee). Get rid of the ‘sweet trimmings’ if they have become your focus.  That will only keep you from reaping the wonderful benefits of God’s word.  If you don’t recognize the benefits of God’s word in your life, then maybe you aren’t getting enough and need to increase your daily dosage.

Hebrews 4:12 ~ For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

Isaiah 40:8 ~ The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever.

ATTENTION: Immediate Response Required

Going on from there He (Jesus) saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and He called them.  Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him. ~ Matthew 4:21-22

When I read this today, I was amazed at how quickly John and James responded to Jesus when He called them.  Here they were, busy working, yet they left everything (including their father) to follow Jesus.  The Bible also says that they did so IMMEDIATELY.  Wow!  I’m not sure I would have been able to do that.  Would you?

I am the type of person that goes through a bit of a process before making a decision like that.  My process usually starts with me asking questions such as what, when, where, why and how?  I want to know all the details and exactly what I am getting into.  Second, I check my calendar to find out if I already have things scheduled or planned.  I want to make sure it is going to be convenient for me.  Third, I usually take some time to think and pray about the situation.  Lastly, I like to seek advice from friends and family before making a final decision.  This process could take some time, and that was something John and James didn’t have.  Jesus was calling, and they needed to answer one way or another.  I find it interesting that these brothers didn’t wait to reply to Jesus, and it’s a good thing they didn’t.  If they had, they would have missed out on a lot!  John and James would have missed out on the opportunity to be Jesus’ disciples.  They would have missed out on hearing the teachings and instruction of Jesus.  They would have missed out on witnessing all of the miracles performed by Jesus.  They would have missed out on God’s blessing for their lives!

As I read this, I wondered how many of us don’t answer Jesus right away when He calls.  How many of us know that God is speaking to us about something, yet we don’t answer?  How much are we missing out on, because we don’t respond immediately to God?

John and James were working at a job, and didn’t give any notice before leaving.  They weren’t concerned with how things would get done after they left.  They didn’t make a big deal about having to leave their father either.  Jesus called, and they answered.  It’s that simple.  Why is that?  I believe it’s because they understood who was calling them.  They knew that Jesus was God in the flesh and reverenced Him.   They knew that He had an awesome plan for their lives.  They didn’t worry about the details, because they trusted Jesus.  They were focused on the bigger picture.  They were focused in Jesus Christ!

Are you like John and James?  Do you respond to the call of Christ immediately or do you procrastinate?

I bet some of you are like me and hold off on responding, because you want to make sure all of the details are squared away first.  I’d like to encourage you (and myself) today to respond quickly to the Lord.  When He is calling you, prompting you, convicting you, impelling you, nudging you, urging you or motivating you…RESPOND!  Don’t wait.  Don’t let the opportunities God has for you pass by.  You may not get the same chance again.  You might not have all of the details figured out, but rest assured God does.  You may not know all the answers or what the final outcome will be, but you know God.  Trust Him.  Don’t doubt.  Have faith.  Don’t be afraid, because God  is with you.  If you hear Him calling you…ANSWER! God is so pleased when we answer His call immediately.  Let your answer be, “Yes Lord!”

Psalm 95: 7-8 ~ For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand.  Today, if you would hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts…

Hebrews 11:6 ~ And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.


Christmas Gifts

Christmas Eve has always been such an exciting night for me.  As a child our family would attend a Christmas party each year which always included lots of food, friends and fun.  It was such a great time!  Then on the way home (which was usually after midnight sometime) my brother and I would try to spot Santa’s sleigh in the sky.  I’d have butterflies in my stomach the entire way home…hoping that Santa hadn’t passed our house yet.  For some reason I didn’t think he would leave presents if I wasn’t at home and in my own bed.  Once at home in my bed, it usually took me a long time to go to sleep.  Actually, I would be so excited about the next morning that it was almost impossible to sleep.

It’s funny, because things haven’t changed that much since becoming an adult.  I still get just as excited during the Christmas season and on Christmas Eve.  I do realize that Santa isn’t real and that presents won’t magically appear under my Christmas tree, however there is something else that excites me just as much (in addition to the miracle of Christ’s birth of course) and that is….GIVING!  We’ve all heard that saying “Tis better to give than to receive”, although in today’s world that really doesn’t seem to ring true for many folks.  I think that most people enjoy receiving, taking and hoarding rather than giving.

Each year, starting around October, I begin looking for gifts that I think my sons would really appreciate.  I look for things that I feel match their personalities.  I try to find items that remind me of each of them and that I think they would really enjoy.  I start stashing everything away until Christmas time and by mid November, I have quite a substantial pile of goodies.  As I purchase these items, I smile and I think about how happy my boys are going to be when they see their gifts.  It is a fun process that I truly look forward to each year.

This Christmas Eve was wonderful as always.  Our family spent the day together enjoying one another and focusing on Christ.  We watched Christmas movies, did a little shopping and attended the Candlelight service at our church.  Around 10pm or so everyone starting going to bed…except for me that is.  I could not sleep, because I was so excited.  I started carrying the gifts downstairs to put them under the Christmas tree.  I also filled all of the stockings with lots of fun and yummy treats.  After everything was done I laid down to go to sleep, but I couldn’t.  It was so very quiet in the house with everyone else asleep, yet I was wide awake.  I was so anxious about seeing the smiles on my sons faces that I wanted them to open the gifts at that very moment…at 1am, but it wasn’t time yet, so I had to wait.

As I laid there, trying to go to sleep, I felt The Holy Spirit say, “This is how I feel when I bless you.”

I smiled and said, “Thank You Lord.”

Have you ever thought about that before?  About just how much joy it brings God, The Father to bless us?  About how He enjoys giving us gifts and seeing the excitement in our eyes when we receive them?

For those of us who have been born-again…God is our Father.  He loves us more than we could ever know or understand and LOVES to bless us.  Some of you may not have experienced a loving father growing up, so it is hard for you to comprehend how a perfect God could ever love you unconditionally…but He does.  God loves us so much that He chose to save us from a burning hell.  He loves us so much that He does not want to spend eternity without us.  He loves us so much that He chose to sacrifice His Son in order to save us.  He allowed Jesus to suffer a horrible death for you and for me!  But God’s love doesn’t end there, He loves to bless His children abundantly too.  Psalm 37:4 says that those that delight themselves in the Lord, to them He gives the desires of their hearts.  That’s right…God enjoys giving us the desires of our hearts.

As His children, God not only meets ALL of our needs, but He also enjoys blessing us with wonderful gifts in life too.  Those gifts will be different for each one of us, because each one of us is uniquely created.  No two people are alike.  I wouldn’t get video games for my son who is an artist and loves to paint or a rap CD for my son who enjoys rock music.  God is the same way.  He gives each of us gifts that are thoughtfully and specially created for us.  When my sons opened their gifts, their eyes lit up, their jaws dropped, they smiled a lot and there were lots of  “thank yous.”  I so enjoyed being able to give special gifts to my sons.  I think about how excited I was to see my children open their gifts…and realize how much more pleasure God gets from seeing us enjoy the blessings that He showers upon us.

Matthew 7:11 ~ If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!

You may be reading this and feel that God hasn’t given you any gifts yet.  You may be wondering where your blessings are.  Do you remember when I said that even though I was anxious about giving the gifts to my sons at 1am, I had to wait until the proper time…which was in the morning?  Well, it sometimes works the same way with God.  He has your blessings stored up for you (stashed away), but the time has not yet come for those things to be released.  But just know that He is looking forward to the day when He can pour out those blessings on you.  He is excited about seeing your face light up like a kid on Christmas morning.  In the mean time… continue to delight yourself in Him and thank Him daily for ALL that He has done for you.  He doesn’t owe us anything and everything that we have is truly a gift from Him…be thankful!

James 1:17 ~ Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.

Guilty or Not Guilty?

God is so amazing in the way that He speaks to His people.  He can use anything that is going on in my life or in the world to reveal something to me about Himself.   His word is so very true  (that all things were made by Him and FOR Him ~ Colossians 1:16).

As I was watching the verdict being read at the Casey Anthony trial, I couldn’t help but think about another trial, an even bigger and much more important trial.  Before I get into that, let me share a bit about the Casey Anthony story, just in case you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years.  This particular case has been going on for a while.  Casey was being tried for the murder of her 2-year-old daughter.  She was actually facing the death penalty, but the jury found her NOT GUILTY.  I think most of the world was SHOCKED to say the least.  I know I was.

I’ve followed this case for sometime now, and to be quite honest I believe that she did have something to do with the death of her daughter.  The fact that she didn’t report her daughter as being missing for a month was a little odd to me, and don’t get me started on all of the lies or different stories that were told during the trial.  In my opinion, this is no way that a mother who loves her child acts.  However, she was not on trial for being a bad mother, or even her poor choices in life.  She was in fact, on trial for murder.  Apparently there wasn’t enough evidence to convict her of that.  Tons of Americans have already made (public) comments about how upset they are about this verdict.  People are furious.

But wait a minute.  Isn’t the fact that we are ALL given the right to a fair trial one of the things we love about our country?  That we are innocent until proven guilty.  Right?  That if there isn’t enough evidence to convict, there is no conviction?  While I may not agree (at all) with the verdict, I am still grateful to live in a land where our case can be heard before a judge, before sentencing us to death.  Which brings me to what God was sharing with me as I was watching the verdict being read.

Did you know that ALL of us, and I do mean ALL (every single human ever born) is guilty of a crime?  Did you know that all of us are going to sit in front of a Judge one day?  Did you know that there is a heavy case against us, and we could very well be sentenced to death?

I’m talking about the case of God vs. Humanity that is held in THE REAL SUPREME COURT.  Unlike the Casey Anthony trial we are NOT innocent until proven guilty, we are actually guilty until proven innocent.  We are ALL born guilty; every single one of us. You may disagree with this, but it’s the truth.

Psalm 51:5 ~ Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me

God created humans so that He could dwell with them.  However, the very first human ever created (Adam) chose to disobey God’s instruction (which is called sin), and this separated him from God. This not only separated him from God and his daily fellowship with Him, but the ultimate result of his disobedience was DEATH.  This applied not only to Adam and his family, but every single human born after that, including US today.  Romans 6:23 ~ For the wages of sin is death…

You mean to tell me that when we are born, even as cute little babies, we have this sin curse on us?  Yes!  Almost like a virus that can be passed from a mother to a child, we are all born into sin; with a sinful nature.  So what do we do?  How do we get out of this bind?

Because we are born into sin, we are unable to stand before Holy God to even defend ourselves.  So who will defend us?

1 Samuel 2:25 ~ …..but if a man sins against the LORD, who can intercede for him?

Isaiah 59:16
~ And He saw that there was no man, and was astonished that there was no one to intercede…

James 4:12 ~ There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy…

There is no way that we can get out of this mess ourselves.  We could never change or reverse the death sentence that has been put on our lives.  God’s holiness demands justice, and while it may seem harsh to some of us, it is the truth.  You may be thinking at this point about how hopeless this sounds.  But God and His great wisdom and His great love for us came up with an answer to our problem.

God, our Judge, has appointed a Great Lawyer and Advocate for us….and His name is Jesus.  That’s right, Jesus.  Jesus is the Son of God, who left His heavenly home to come to Earth so He could live the life we couldn’t live…a holy one.  He paid the penalty for us by dying in our place, or on our behalf.   Why Jesus?  Because He is the only One who is both qualified and able.  He fulfilled the requirement of holiness, because He is fully God, and had the right to pay our debt because He is fully Man.

He lived a sinless life, died, shedding His blood for us, resurrected and now sits at the Right Hand of God the Father.   Yes, He is alive today!

Once we accept the fact that Jesus took the death penalty for us, we are given the NOT GUILTY verdict, and spared from eternal death.  Jesus Himself pleads our case before the Father.  Isn’t that awesome news?!?!  It’s the best news I’ve ever heard that’s for sure!

Hebrews 4:15
~ For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.

So what?  Well, it may be easy for us to look at Ms. Anthony and pass judgment, because that is something “that we would never do”.  However, ALL of us are guilty of something.  All of us have sinned some how at sometime, even if it was when we were a defiant 2-year-old, telling our parents…NO!   What may be considered sin to you may not be sin to me, and vise versa.  It really doesn’t matter what we think though, because according to the standard of a Holy God…anything less then perfect is SIN.  Romans 3:23 ~ For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God

Do you want to stand before The Judge, having Him go over every single thing you have ever done wrong (including your thoughts and your words) and be sentenced to death (suffering for eternity)?  Or would you like to stand before Him, guilt-free, knowing your debt has been paid in full already, and hear Him say to you, “well done”?  It seems like an easy choice to me, but surprisingly enough so many people are choosing the death penalty instead of God’s grace.  What do you choose?

Hebrews 7:24-25 ~ but Jesus, on the other hand, because He continues forever, holds His priesthood permanently. Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.