The Candle of Peace

The Candle of Peace

Peace – freedom from war, violence and disorder ; quietness and calm

The days in the Old Testament were of violence, war, and most certainly disorder. God’s people were not feeling peace but they were full of Hope as the Prophets foretold them of the Messiah’s coming! So we ask, aren’t times in our world like that of old? Yes! The difference is we know Jesus, the Messiah did come! The prophecy became a reality and so we know peace came as well. Did the violence, war and disorder end because the Messiah came? No. Were they expecting the Messiah to be their next King over the nation of Israel? Yes. Is that what happened? No. So how did His people experience peace? Just as you and I can experience His peace today. First of all, yes, we can look at our world today and know there is violence, disorder and most certainly war. With that comes fear, anxiety, isolation, nervous thoughts, and unrest. We can listen to the news or shut it off but it still can effect us. We can isolate ourselves from others but with that comes loneliness and despair, doesn’t it? We can ‘go away’ on a trip, to a cabin in the woods, anywhere we desire but when we return home, this fear, anxiety and so forth is there waiting for us. We try to sleep at night to find much needed rest but sleep doesn’t come. Our thoughts play havoc in our mind and in our stomach.

I have just described the opposite of peace in our first definition. How can we find the quietness and calm that defines peace? I’m glad you asked! Each day I will answer this question for you – today let’s think of the Lord, our Shepherd. When He speaks to us remember He never uses words of despair, hopelessness, frustration, defeat, discouragement, fear, confusion, or failure. Instead He gives us words of hope, rest, victory, PEACE, power, joy, triumph, and always with His love. So we have a choice – who are we listening to? Do our thoughts bring unrest, fear, anxiety, confusion, defeat? Then those thoughts are planted by the predator of our soul – satan. You can tell him to get lost – to leave you alone because you are a child of God. But your next step is most important. Turn your thoughts to that of God, our Shepherd. Share your heart because as your Heavenly Father, He cares and He’s listening. By the way, He loves this time with you, with me. Be prepared for a heavenly hug! Ask God for wisdom and thank Him for His presence in your life. God has prepared the path you’re on and He knows where it’s leading. I look at it this way – many times we need railings by which to hang on as we find balance and sure footing along life’s path. I call my railings Faith & Trust. In walking, I am obeying His voice that says “Come unto Me. Let Me share your burden.” And the cares, although they might not become all better immediately, I know they are in His hands and Who better to leave them with?

When you learn to trust in God – the One who is our Hope, our Peace, our Joy, and our Love – you will know His Peace in your heart. Stay focused on God today. When the winds of life start to blow, run to His sheltering arms with prayer. When you need reassurance, open your heart as He speaks to you through His Word. If music lifts your spirit, listen to songs that will draw your thoughts to Him, the Maker of the melody and harmony in life. Prayer and Peace are companions along life’s journey – the peace comes not in us just praying for it. It comes from the One who hears our prayer and knows our heart – and that, my friend, is our Lord God, the Messiah’s Father, and our Good Shepherd. Amen!

Scripture: John 14: 27 & 28 ; Isaiah 26: 3 & 4 ; Jeremiah 29: 11-13(mark these scriptures. read them often)

Peace – A Gift for this Season

Peace – A Gift for this Season

Peace – a word so easily spoken and a feeling that so many search to experience. Many times we’ll experience a type peace when we’re relaxing, doing something we enjoy or being surrounded by God’s amazing creation. Peace whispers to our well-being. We love those moments don’t we? What happens to that peace? A loud shout, a mishap, or life’s circumstance pops up and boom! Kerplunk! That peace we just had is gone – in a second it diminishes, doesn’t it?

God’s gift of peace comes through His presence in our life. There’s not a short cut we can take to obtain it. The Candles of Advent represent 4 wonderful gifts that God bestows in each of our lives and they are just the beginning of His many blessings! We learned last week that “hope” and “want” are two different things. (If you missed that reading, go back and check it out) So it is with peace. Yesterday’s definition shows the difference.

Let me remind you – 1: freedom from war, violence & disorder 2: quietness & calm. You can ‘want’ this type of peace in your daily life. We see the ruins of war, violence and disorder in our history and in our world today. We see the hurt, the devastation that comes with #1 so we want the peace that comes from that freedom – Our moments of peace in #2 is what I described in the first paragraph. We ‘want’ to cozy up and stay by the fireplace, campfire, the babbling brook – surrounded by our favorite people, places, and things. We ‘want’ that type of peace if even for a weekend or vacation time.

The difference in God’s peace is that like Hope, it comes from within. The disciples were in their boat (and it wasn’t a Yacht) in the middle of the sea when the wind and waves picked up. And fear came upon them. Fear is the opposite of peace. There was nothing they could do to immediately get out of that storm, was there? That is, until Jesus spoke to the storm – “Peace. Be still.” This is the peace Jesus’ birth brought to the hearts of those who worshipped Him. Circumstances in their country didn’t change and in many ways became worse as we read of Jesus entering the Synagogue. The Voice of our Savior whispers in our heart to “Be still and know that I am God”. Sometimes we’re so caught up in the drama, the noise, and the storm that we’re not tuned into His whisper of peace. His Hope and His Peace light the way, reminding us that just as Jesus came during the 1st Advent, His gift of Hope & Peace is for us today as we anticipate His 2nd Advent. Will you accept His gift of Peace in your heart today?

Here are a few scriptures I’d like you to look up and mark so you can be reminded of His gift of Peace – that it’s for you and for you to share with others!

Psalm 46:10 ; Mark 4:35-4; Psalm 36:9; John 16:33; Philippians 4:6-7;John 14:27; 2 Thessalonians 3:16; Psalm 29:11; Isaiah 26:3

Lighting the Candle of Peace in My Life

“The most natural way of treating people is to treat them like they treat us. If they are nice, we are nice. If they are not, we are not. BUT, maturity and improvement in any relationship calls for way more than that. It calls us to treat people better than they may be treating us.”- Dr. Henry Cloud

I posted this quote from Dr. Henry Cloud on my facebook page. The responses I received do not surprise me. Each person being honest, wanting to do better but still experiencing deep pain caused by another person. Let me first say Dr. Henry Cloud’s last sentence is a challenge and a so very necessary even more so in our world today. I’d like to share my story with you – I will try my best to to keep it short and to the point but you know how I can….well, here’s my story.

I could begin by going back to my childhood but it’s not necessary to give numerous examples of how this or that one treated him, her, or me. Wow, that’s a tongue twister. I’d like to start where I really began learning my role in reacting or responding to being mistreated by another. I think a lot of our maturity growth happens in our 40’s and it was in October that I felt drawn to read Psalm 23. Like most of you, Psalm 23 is something we memorized in Sunday School or it’s such a familiar scripture that I read it with ease. For several days in a row, I read Psalm 23. Then the sentences, one by one, started to jump out to me. Psalm 23:1 “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.” Soul searching and life truths began to grow within my heart.

While I knew King David, who wrote the Psalm, was a shepherd during his boyhood years, I really didn’t grasp the meaning of the Psalm. Over the next 6 month’s I began to read all I could about being a shepherd during those days and there was so much to learn! I took pages of notes and was immersed in David’s life – from shepherd boy, a musician playing the harp, to a giant slayer, becoming a King- all the while reading of his highs and lows in his life. You know, the good, the bad, the ugly. God said “David was a man after His own heart” (1 Samuel 13:4) While so many of us think how could this be with the sin we read from David’s life? I began learning how God saw David’s heart. His struggle between the human desire and the spiritual desire was real. God knew David’s heart. He knew the struggle was real and he also knew it was in David’s heart to follow and honor Him. How did God teach David? He reminded David of his shepherding days and as David began to pen the words of Psalm 23, we get a wonderful glimpse into their intimate relationship.

My relationship with God began to grow deeper and it was the beginning of a wonderful intimate relationship that I now share with Him, too. This is what happened. I began to see myself as a sheep in His pasture and He was the Shepherd. As I continued to learn through these months of my life, He was teaching me to apply the truth’s of His Shepherding and me following as His sheep. (If you read other writings on here on my blog, I shared about Psalm 23 verse by verse.) Wow, as my mind thinks back to that time, I’m in awe how protective my Shepherd was for me. He guarded my heart when I didn’t realize it needed guarded. His voice called me to His presence when other voices were getting loud around me. He pointed me to the mountain top when the valley seemed so deep and reminded me that His goodness and mercy would follow me. Many times He anointed my head with oil as He cared for me. He had me ‘pass under His rod’ as He corrected me, taught me, and guided me with His staff in the way I should go. He lead me through Life’s valley and when the waves of hurt, gossip, discord, and betrayal came, He’d lift me up and hold me close to Him. I felt safe, protective, and I knew He’d take care of me and of my family because ‘The Lord (He) is my Shepherd. I lacked for nothing” because my heart was now in tuned with the Shepherd. My Shepherd.

So what was going on? I was in the pasture with other sheep. At the time this 6 month’s began, I had no idea some of the other sheep had their minds set differently. I was sensing that something was amiss there in the fold but I was focused on others – ewes, rams and the lambs along with the Shepherd’s helper (Pastor). There was an undercurrent that was happening. So about early March that following year, I came into the sheep’s fold (the church) and overheard some ewes talking rather nasty about me. I looked into the nursery room where they were standing and a sadness, a betrayal washed over me like I’d never felt before. I turned to walk back out to my car feeling so hurt and devastated but the voice of my Shepherd called to me – He asked me to “come to Him”. I did. I went back, walked passed the nursery door and went into the sanctuary with my family. They sat down and I went to the piano to play. Just as with David playing the harp, God used the music to soothe my soul at that very moment. It was personal. It was intimate and although it was in deep hurt and pain, I was not alone for my Shepherd was with me.

Through that valley in my life, I lost my best friend. But as the hymn says “What a Friend we have in Jesus”

  1. What a friend we have in Jesus,
    All our sins and griefs to bear!
    What a privilege to carry
    Everything to God in prayer!
    Oh, what peace we often forfeit,
    Oh, what needless pain we bear,
    All because we do not carry
    Everything to God in prayer!
  2. Have we trials and temptations?
    Is there trouble anywhere?
    We should never be discouraged—
    Take it to the Lord in prayer.
    Can we find a friend so faithful,
    Who will all our sorrows share?
    Jesus knows our every weakness;
    Take it to the Lord in prayer.

God took this time in my life, as David says in verses 2-4, to spend time with my Shepherd in the green pasture and beside the still waters. Over the next few month’s He restored my soul and began to lead me in new path’s for His name’s sake. See, some of what I was learning during this time was that although others wanted to make everything ‘all about me’, they were really hurting God’s name, causing Him pain and they were sowing discord in His pasture. I learned that He really did know what I was going through. That His Son, Jesus Christ had experienced so much more and yet He loved. He forgave. He showed mercy and offered grace. And with that, He taught me the difference (an old life lesson that I had to relearn) between reacting to those who were causing the pain and responding to the pain. Let me assure you, that was a hard perspective for me to swallow. My birthday is in April and my nature is taking the bull by the horns. You know, reacting! In responding, I needed to spend more time with the Shepherd so as not to cause injury to another sheep or even myself. I did just that. Did I experience questions of why, further frustrations, more tears from the hurt, and certainly the injustice I was seeing played out? Of course! But each time the Shepherd’s voice was a bit clearer and I had learned to trust Him. This was His responsibility. Even though I didn’t see the love and fruit in the lives of these people, they were other sheep. I know because we had spent time together frolicking and playing, worshipping and praying. All together in the same pasture (church). Somehow the predator had snuck in where there was a gap in the pasture boundaries. That predator choose to isolate a sheep and feed them with insecurities bringing doubt and misgiving to their lives. Other sheep joined them with similar symptoms and together they somehow look at me (and others) as the enemy, not as another sheep in the same fold. That predator was clothed in sheep clothing and even I was caught unaware. Yet, God wasn’t! He had begun leading me down a path for restoration even before I would need it. That’s the faithful Shepherd He is.

I’ll never forget how things fell apart and life would never be the same for me or my family. What would become of us, of other sheep that were scattered? For a couple of years it was most difficult but each time the wound would break open a bit, God was there to place His ointment of peace, love, and grace on the hurt. So many times He showered His loving care bringing me rest and joy. I wouldn’t trade those days of healing for anything. While the pain was raw, God’s love and care was tender and compassionate. It was through His care for me that one day I knew He was asking me to be a part of another flock and I just knew I couldn’t do it. There was no way I was going to put myself out there to become a target again. He took me aside, guided me with His staff and reminded me of Who I belonged to. He reminded me that I was an Ewe and He needed my heart in helping other sheep, especially the little lambs who were just learning and growing themselves. That day, to give you a picture, as I began walking Life’s Path with my Shepherd it seem such a great distance. I didn’t know if I could do it. As we began walking and talking, I began noticing to the left and to the right there were several folds of sheep. Some seemed hurt and in need of great attention while others were skipping and playing. Some were just walking in circles forming a rut while others were playing king on the mountain. Some were older and many much younger. All of a sudden we were at the gate and I was feeling very safe with just the Shepherd and me. The gate at the end of this long pathway also served as a gate to a new sheep fold. It was then I realized all that I had just seen represented God’s pasture. Just because each fold was different and at some extreme than another, didn’t mean they weren’t all sheep. I knew they were all there, under my Shepherd’s wonderful sufficient care. It was then I knew He loved them just like He loved me! I knew before I walked through that gate, I could forgive. I didn’t want them to feel the pain and hurt I had felt from them. I didn’t want revenge because I was healed. While I was leaving them ‘behind’ so to speak, I knew our path’s would cross another day. My confidence in the Shepherd was that I didn’t need to worry about that. His presence was all that I wouldn’t be needing. The Lord is my Shepherd, I lack for nothing. Talk about trust! I knew His faithfulness. I knew His protection, His love, His care. He opened the gate and I took a forward step. Not sure of where I was going but sure of Who was with me. I haven’t looked back but have keep my eyes on Him.

“Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in His wonderful face. and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the Light of His glory and grace.” That’s chorus I’ve sung many times when the cares became heavy and the tears began to flow as I grieved the loss I felt deep within. The glory of His grace in my life humbles me and creates in me a deeper desire to stay walking close to the Shepherd.

Just let me add another perspective here. There is a season, a time when the rams get into head butting. So it is with us. The point we need to remember from the Psalm is simple: “Thou anoints my head with oil.” Just as His oil is salve in our healing, it also serves to treat the parasites, the flies, and when placed on the ram horns, it causes them to slip instead of injuring the rams as they butt heads. You can read about that in my Psalm 23 posts! Nevertheless, the Shepherd is with them and will be faithful to take care of them. It’s not our job. We’re just another sheep, learning and growing! We don’t see situations from the Shepherd’s view now, do we? If I had chosen to react, to run away from the Shepherd, and to lash out at those who were causing injury – what path would I be on today? What would my lambs (our children) have seen and learned from me? What about other sheep that were watching and feeling pain because they too were effected? And as His sheep, I’m sure there are others I have wounded by my words or my actions even when that wasn’t my intent. I’ve learned how much of our personality traits, our upbringing, our gifts and abilities effect other sheep in the pasture. To be sure, not one of us can justify hurting another, lashing out wanting things our way, or seek ways to chase another sheep from the safety of the fold. Oh that we would all be much more observant and be alert for the predators that slip through the fence seeking to kill, destroy and rob relationships first and foremost!

I hope to write more soon but I want to tell you, it wasn’t always easy. I’m strong in my faith but in everyone of us there’s a child’s heart. A heart that feels pain, loss, confusion, and still has questions unanswered. I now longer have the need to “go there” when I compare those emotions to how I feel under the care of my Shepherd. Faith brings Hope and Hope teaches us to Trust. I’m confident in my relationship with God because I’ve learned Who He is through reading the Bible and experiencing His presence in my life. My trust in Him knows He’s taking care of His sheep and He will go to whatever length to show them His love and care. What more could I need?

Hope & Faith are Great Companions

Hope & Faith are Great Companions

Hebrews 11: 1 -3 says “Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see. Through their faith, the people in days of old earned a good reputation. By faith we understand that the entire universe was formed at God’s command, that what we now see did not come from anything that can be seen

When I see or think on the word hope I automatically think of companion words that come with hope. The first word that comes to mind is Faith. If you have hope – it is faith that makes us know to expect the reality of what we’ve hoped for. The Old Testament prophesies told them God would send the Messiah. He would be the Hope they yearned for. He would be the Light that would dispel the darkness around them. Now many or all of them passed away before Jesus was born. So you can say “Karen, then how did their hope become a reality for them?” God’s timing is certainly not our timing but He is always right on time. It was their faith, their hope that taught each generation to believe, anticipate, and expect Jesus’ 1st Advent. We know the prophecy was fulfilled, it happened! Because their descendants trusted in the prophesies foretold, their faith grew and God’s truth became the reality at just the right time. In turn, it is our hope, our faith that we expect and prepare for Jesus’ 2nd Coming.

Back to what you might have asked me “Karen, then how did their hope become a reality for them?”. God’s truth is everlasting. His Word speaks of eternity. In fact, Ecclesiastes 3:11 says “ Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.” The Old Testament saints will experience their faith and hope at Jesus’ 2nd Advent. Their faith will become a reality and they will experience life eternal with God. In fact, we will experience it together! Talk about a party, a reunion of rejoicing! Hallelujah!

How about you and me? Where does this all leave us? Let’s read 1 Thessalonians 4: 13 – 18 “And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with him the believers who have died. 15 We tell you this directly from the Lord: We who are still living when the Lord returns will not meet him ahead of those who have died.  16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the believers who have died will rise from their graves. 17 Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever. 18 So encourage each other with these words.”

As you being this weekend, I urge you to think on the candle of Hope. We’ve all had our hope dashed at one point or another and usually many times, haven’t we? Remember, that’s our hope in humanity ways. For instance, students hope for a snow day! They do everything to ‘show their hope’ with all types of antics. It’s fun and many times they see that hope realized, don’t they? So it’s easy then to believe in hope at that moment. Then there are situations we want to see something happen so badly that we mix up our ‘want’ with ‘hope’. We’ve all done it. When our want doesn’t happen and sometimes happens to the extreme opposite, we’re the first to blame God, aren’t we? Let’s check our heart – are we walking alone with our ‘wants’ or are we walking in step with our Companion? It makes all the difference in our faith, our trust and in reality coming to fruition.

Want – a desire for something; a lack or deficiency of something

Hope – to expect with confidence (faith); To trust in, wait for, look for, or desire something or someone/something

My challenge for you today is to clear your heart and mind of the ‘wants’ in your life. Set your heart to experience the Hope that Jesus gives. Then with Faith, you’ll grow with your heart becoming one with His. Miracles will happen!

Experiencing Hope Brings Preparation

Experiencing Hope Brings Preparation

As we begin preparing our homes in celebration of Christmas, what are some of the things you do first? For me, it’s taking down my Autumn decorations and putting them away. Then it’s time to begin putting up my Christmas village. My Christmas village goes on top of my kitchen cupboards and some of it is set up on my hoosier. This entails getting things wiped down as I make sure my countertops are cleared to unpack the totes filled with my houses and all the decorations that go along side of them. Then boards are placed for the houses to set on. There are numerous steps to complete favorite decoration of Christmas. Yes, it takes preparation. It would be useless to try putting the houses up before taking my baskets down from the cupboards. Imagine if I got the houses set before the snow blanket! Yes, before I can enjoy the lighted village, it takes preparation on my part.

I know many who begin their holiday decorations by hanging lights outside a bit early while the weather is still a bit warm. They are being prepared for the cold and snow that they know will be coming. I’m sure it’s not a fun time hanging lights and setting out lawn decorations when the North winds blow and the snow is piling up. It’s funny because we’ve never put lights outside until early-mid December. This year however, my husband has placed clear panels to enclose our front porch for the winter. One day, early November, I decided it was a great time to put lights out on the porch. They have color options so I thought I could have orange lights representing the Fall. Right? Then after Thanksgiving I could change them to the multicolor lights. It certainly seemed reasonable to me. So the lights were up and the next day I was playing around with the remote for them. I left it on a soft multicolor fade thinking I’d change it before dark. Meanwhile our grandson was coming home with his Mom from the nearby city. He made a comment about who would be the ‘crazy one’ (or something like that) to put their Christmas lights up early. They didn’t see any lights in the city nor on the 8 miles riding out to the country where we live. When they rounded the corner, he spotted my lights and to his dismay his Nana’s house was the first and only house that put their lights out way too early! It didn’t matter to him when I tried to explain about the orange Fall lights. All he saw were the multicolor lights glowing and his Nana ended up being the crazy one!

I think sometimes our intentions are well meaning in our “preparations” aren’t they? Sometimes, like with my porch lights, it can cause others to shake their heads and think we’re a bit on the crazy side. Others have their specific time line they will follow in preparation with Christmas and there better be nothing that comes up to disrupt their schedule!

Joseph and Mary were enroute to Bethlehem for the census. They had to go and I’m sure there was a time frame to be there and register. We know they had to prepare for the trip but did they expect baby Jesus to be born while they were there? Why didn’t they prepare by registering for a room ahead of time? I guess there wasn’t the means of communication back then that we have today! We know they traveled far and when they arrived they couldn’t find a room and Mary was about to give birth to her firstborn Son. What we do know is that Jesus’ birth was planned and all figured out by His Heavenly Father. God would provide a place, the perfect place, for Jesus to be born. God’s timing is always right on time. Nothing is impossible with Him.

Here we are in the first week of Advent. We celebrate the Hope that Jesus’ birth brought to all of us. We begin our preparation to honor His birthday in 4 weeks. Gradually the days will begin to run together, schedules will become tighter, many will feel pressure and while all the special times and moments are most wonderful, most will become exhausted, weary, and ready to pack every decoration away the next day after Christmas. Why? Maybe we haven’t taken a moment to prepare our hearts and consider the hope the shepherds felt when they heard the ‘good tidings of great joy’? It didn’t matter what they were wearing, did it? They were the very first visitors to greet Him yet didn’t even have a gift to give to Jesus’, their Messiah! Joseph and Mary didn’t take time to decorate or prepare a feast to welcome visitors. What they all did was celebrate the moment. They praised God because what was prophesied now became a reality. The Hope they had held on to was now here! Their Savior had come!

It is this same Hope that while we rejoice at Jesus’ 1st Advent, we anticipate His 2nd Advent (Coming). Jesus Christ is our only hope in life and in death. He is our Savior from a life of sin. Our Redeemer from the penalty of sin. Eternity with Him, whether in death or at His 2nd Coming will be our time of celebration!

For this Advent Season, let’s take a moment to prepare our hearts – remember, this is the week of Hope! Hope brings anticipation of what’s to come! In preparation for His 2nd Coming we don’t need to be busy filling our calendar with festivities, cooking, shopping, decorating and other traditions we may hold for the 1st Advent. But maybe we need to take a few minutes to “prepare our heart” so we are ready to meet our blessed Savior when He arrives!

Romans 13:11-14 reminds us to be alert and to allow Him, by His grace to mold our life to His pattern. 1 Thessalonians 5: 1-11 tells us to be prepared. To be ready. We have been enlightened by God’s truth and made new by His Holy Spirit. Take time to encourage one another, lift one another up and bring comfort to the weary, those who are struggling.

Candle of Hope – Jesus’ 2nd Advent

Candle of Hope – Jesus’ 2nd Advent

When Isaiah prophesied to Israel, they were living in the shadow of the powerful and awful Assyrian empire. Did they know they were in darkness? Did they even know they needed light?

Do people today – our family, our friends, our coworkers, our neighbors, people across the nation and our world. Do they know they are walking in darkness? Are the shadow’s of darkness bringing fear and anxiety to lives that are wandering aimlessly in life despite the goals and ideals they have set? Do they know they need the Light – the Hope that Jesus’ birth brought to mankind? Do they know they need a Savior? Are you seeking the Messiah, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ?

Isaiah prophesied again about this same Light’s coming. As I read many scriptures prophecies in the Old Testament, I’m convinced they are most certainly speaking of Jesus 1st Advent but also about His 2nd Advent. Jesus’ birth brought a bright hope to those who were seeking, anticipating the Messiah. This hope must have pierced the darkness during this time in history bringing joy and celebration.

Isaiah 60:1 says “Arise, shine, for your Light has come and the glory of the Lord shines over you.”

John 1:5 says “In Him was life and that life was the light of men. That light shines in the darkness, and yet the darkness did not comprehend it.”

The promise of the 2nd Advent (Coming) is that Jesus will return just like He’s promised. And when He does, there’ll be no more darkness, not even a shadow. His Light is far reaching and the world will not need “the sun or the moon to shine on it because the glory of God will illuminate it and its lamp will be the Lamb”

Revelations 21:22-27 says “I saw no temple in the city, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. And the city has no need of sun or moon, for the glory of God illuminates the city, and the Lamb is its light. The nations will walk in its light, and the kings of the world will enter the city in all their glory.  Its gates will never be closed at the end of day because there is no night there. And all the nations will bring their glory and honor into the city. Nothing evil will be allowed to enter, nor anyone who practices shameful idolatry and dishonesty—but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.”

Isaiah 60:19 “The Lord will be your everlasting light.

Romans 13:11-14 says “This is all the more urgent, for you know how late it is; time is running out. Wake up, for our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is almost gone; the day of salvation will soon be here. So remove your dark deeds like dirty clothes, and put on the shining armor of right living.  Because we belong to the day, we must live decent lives for all to see. Don’t participate in the darkness of wild parties and drunkenness, or in sexual promiscuity and immoral living, or in quarreling and jealousy.  Instead, clothe yourself with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. And don’t let yourself think about ways to indulge your evil desires.”

Be alert for Christ’s 2nd Coming – allow Him, by His grace, to mold your life according to His pattern instead of our flesh, as our human nature that will corrupt us by sin.

1 Thessalonians 5: 1-11 says “Now concerning how and when all this will happen, dear brothers and sisters,[a] we don’t really need to write you. For you know quite well that the day of the Lord’s return will come unexpectedly, like a thief in the night. When people are saying, “Everything is peaceful and secure,” then disaster will fall on them as suddenly as a pregnant woman’s labor pains begin. And there will be no escape. But you aren’t in the dark about these things, dear brothers and sisters, and you won’t be surprised when the day of the Lord comes like a thief. For you are all children of the light and of the day; we don’t belong to darkness and night. So be on your guard, not asleep like the others. Stay alert and be clearheaded. Night is the time when people sleep and drinkers get drunk. But let us who live in the light be clearheaded, protected by the armor of faith and love, and wearing as our helmet the confidence of our salvation. For God chose to save us through our Lord Jesus Christ, not to pour out his anger on us. Christ died for us so that, whether we are dead or alive when he returns, we can live with him forever.  So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.”

We are now in the Season of Advent and we are remembering Jesus’ 1st Coming. Let’s consider each day this week of what the candle of Hope means to us. Are we humbled in the presence of our Savior as the Shepherds were? Are we telling others the “good tidings of great joy for all people”? 1 Peter 3:15 reminds us “you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it.” Explain the hope you have now as a believer in the Messiah’s coming? Of course! You have His Holy Spirit in your life and God’s truth is being taught to you (and me) as we spiritually grow. We can encourage one another, bring comfort to one another and lift one another up when there is pain, hurt, discouragement, fear, anxiety. We no longer walk in darkness – a darkness that separates one from God. We have seen His Light and it has brought us Hope. We are His children. Let’s keep the tidings of great joy simple. Jesus wasn’t complicated and we don’t need to be. We walk in the Light as He is in the Light.

Dear God, as we light this first candle of Advent we begin a spiritual journey as we joyously anticipate celebrating Your birth on Christmas day. As Your light in our life has dispelled the darkness around us, may we carry Your light into the lives of others by the things we say & do in our daily life. May the Hope that you’ve brought into our heart help us to praise and glorify You just as the Shepherds in Bethlehem so long ago. As we anticipate Your 2nd Coming fill us with Hope anew. Let us not grow weary but may we continue to walk as children of Light as we grow, learning more of Your Word and applying it in our heart and life. In Your name we pray, Amen.

Lighting the Candle of Hope

Lighting the Candle of Hope

As we read yesterday in Isaiah 7:14, the Old Testament is filled with God’s prophecies preparing the way for His promise of the Messiah. The New Testament celebrates the fulfilled promise with the ‘arrival’, the birth of God’s Son, Jesus Christ in the gospels.

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.”

Luke 2:1-7 God used the timing of the census decree (ie: paying taxes) to bring Mary & Joseph to Bethlehem where prophecy had foretold that Jesus would be born. Jesus, the Son of God was born in humble circumstances. Wrapped in swaddling clothes and placed in a manger.

We light the first purple candle as Jesus’ birth brought Hope. Who first heard this message of Hope? Come with me to Luke 2: 8-20 – let’s read how the angels first came to the Shepherds. Their calling was a humble, lowly calling yet they were the first to hear the news and let’s see what they do with it!

The Shepherds were in the country with their sheep and it was nighttime when an angel of the Lord stood before them. They were filled with great fear (and trust me, I think you and I would be too!) The angel quickly put them at ease with these words of hope – “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.” Other angels, forming a heavenly host, filled the night praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”

The ‘good tidings of great joy’ was for all people! That includes you and me! The Shepherds did exactly as the angel told them and they found baby Jesus lying in a manger with Mary & Joseph there in the presence of the promised Messiah!

When you and I hear good news, one of the first things we do is get happy! That happiness spills over as we begin to tell others the good news, doesn’t it? Well, this is exactly what the Shepherds did – they went and told others and people marveled at this miracle, the birth of their Messiah, Jesus. Old Testament scripture was now fulfilled and “the Shepherds returned to their fields glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and see, as it was told to them.”

But wait just a second! What about Mary? Mary the mother of Jesus! Verse 19 tell us that “Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.”

The candle of Hope brings to us an expectation, anticipation, and a realization that Old Testament and New Testament prophecy will be fulfilled in God’s perfect timing. Jesus, God’s Son – the Messiah has been born and His coming filled hearts with hope. Hope – spiritually, physically, emotionally and with hope will come peace, joy, and love!

You may share in the proclamation of the Angels the “good tidings of great joy (hope)” or the excitement of the Shepherds as they told others of this miracle “Jesus, the Messiah was born” or you simply could be like Mary and “ponder” this in your heart this week. Has Jesus become your Savior? Do you know the hope His presence brings to your life? Tomorrow we will look at Jesus’ 2nd Advent – anticipating His 2nd Coming brings us Hope!

Beginning our Journey through the Advent Season

“The birth of Christ is the central event in the history of the earth – the very thing the whole story has been about” – C.S.Lewis

The word Advent simply means “coming” or “arrival”. In Christianity, Advent begins each year on the 4th Sunday before Christmas. This is the season Christians around the world celebrate the 1st Advent – Jesus’ birth. We also anticipate Jesus’ 2nd Advent, that is His 2nd Coming!

An evergreen wreath with candles set is our visual way we celebrate this season of Advent. The evergreen wreath reminds us of God’s eternal love & presence. Each week a candle is lit to tell the story of Jesus’ coming the first time and as we remember, our hearts are ignited with the same Hope, Peace, Joy, & Love as we anticipate His 2nd Coming. For some that hold a Christmas Eve service, they then review the 4 weeks of Advent followed by lighting a white candle in the center – for Jesus Christ is born!

Matthew 1:23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel which is translated ‘God with us'” 

Isaiah 7:14 “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.”

Advent invites us to once again remember Jesus’ first coming but to also urges each one of us to prepare our hearts for His return. Tomorrow we will “light the candle of Hope” to begin our journey. Remember as you go about your day – Immanuel – God is with us!

Finding Our Place of Rest

Finding Our Place of Rest

I’ve shared before my time of learning the meaning behind the well known Psalm 23. I studied the Shepherd and sheep analogy and as most of you know, there is still so much more to learn. Just to bring us together today, David was first a shepherd boy and knew what it was to care for sheep. For his sheep to find rest under his care David knew their four needs had to be met before they could find rest. In Psalm 23 time, David was now the King of Israel and life’s weariness, pain, and circumstances had brought him to reflecting on his days as a shepherd boy.

Psalm 23:1-3 “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. (I lack for nothing. I have all I need). He makes me lie down in green pastures and He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul…”

Let’s look at a few verses today and maybe you’ll find inspiration to apply in your life or to share with a friend who is needing to find their place of rest today.

Matthew 11:28-30 says “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

Jesus calls us to “Come to Me” and when we do, His promise is that He’ll give us rest. Who can come? Any of us that are weary or burdened! What might lead you into weariness may be different that me. What you might carry around as burdensome, might be and most probably is, different than what I carry. It’s not about comparing your weariness or burdens to someone else’s. It’s simply about the Source of where each one of us can share our weariness and lighten our burden of care.

There’s a story about a person going to St. Peter and asking if they could be given a different cross to bear through life. St. Peter took them into a room filled with crosses. As the individual looked around the room there were all different sizes of life crosses to carry. They were so very different from one another and then their eyes saw a cross over in the corner of the room all by itself and it seemed to be the smallest of all the other crosses. The individual asked if that could be the cross they bear since theirs seemed so much larger in daily life. St. Peter agreed and the individual picked up the smallest cross and went about life. It was then the individual realized that he/she had picked up the exact cross that God had given them to carry only now, in comparison to other crosses, their cross didn’t seem quite so big and heavy to carry.

Jesus’ promise is if we “come to Him (Me)” He will give us rest. There just has to be a bit more to it than that, right? Of course! The word picture Jesus gives us can explain what to do next. He speaks of “taking My yoke”. I am using the definitions found in the Oxford Dictionary to help us understand the meaning and purpose or use of a “yoke”.

  1. a wooden crosspiece that is fastened over the necks of two animals and attached to the plow or cart that they are to pull.

2. a part of a garment that fits over the shoulders and to which the main part of the garment is attached, typically in gathers or pleat

Jesus is offering us to share our cares and walk with Him along side of us. He never expects us to become so weary in life or carry such heavy burdens alone. He experienced life as we are now on our life’s journey, didn’t He? Jesus knows there are physical, emotional, spiritual, and even financial needs that are caused by circumstances inside or outside our control. Jesus doesn’t always say He will take them away but He promises to help us carry the things that weigh us down. In fact, I love the #2 definition, too! When we ask Jesus to take His yoke upon us, it’s an exact fit over our weary, achy shoulders because He knows just what is needed to bring us rest. Think back to when your shoulders ache and someone comes along behind you and gives you the best massage that causes your body to relax. Or the times we need to lay our head on a pillow and just allow our minds and body to rest for a bit. For you it could be time in the hot tub, a walk along the sandy beach, a hike beside the stream and up to the mountain top, sitting by a campfire, reading a book, or turning on the music that just soothes your whole being. These are all instances in how we have come to learn what relaxation and rest are to us. They are all great avenues for us to experience and yes, we do find rest. Temporarily that is. When we allow Jesus to walk along side us no matter where we are and what we’re going through it just keeps life more constant – more steady and enables us to learn from Him even while we’re weary or burdened by the cares of life.

It’s important for you and I to remember just Who Jesus is! He is God’s Son, part of the Trinity with the Holy Spirit. Jesus told His disciples if they saw Him, they’d seen the Father. The very character of God is shared as these verses continue. Jesus wants us to learn from Him. Why? Because He is gentle and humble in heart. Jesus is like His father – gentle and humble in heart. Full of love, understanding, and just as David knew – our Shepherd Who will meet our every need so we can find rest along Life’s journey. Our circumstances may not change but we can learn through them and we will know the weariness is replaced with comfort & hope. The burden is much lighter and much easier to carry.

We’re never alone. We just have to run to our Shepherd. He’s calling us to “Come”. Of course there are other voices or sounds calling to us as well – remember with the Shepherd and sheep analogy….(you can go back and read all about it on this blog). Those voices might promise a good time to forget your troubles but they won’t share in your carrying them, will they? Those voices might make the burden seem heavier yet but they aren’t offering to lighten your load, are they? It might sound like the voices are having such a great time but as you join them you won’t know the gentleness and loving heart that Jesus offers you. Think on just Who our God is. His love for you and me is what brought Jesus here amongst us to experience life in human form yet join His Father in heaven to intercede on our behalf. He is the best Advocate, Intercessor, Yoke Bearer, Shepherd yet!

Let me remind you of the four needs a sheep has to have met before they can find rest. They need to be free from fear or anxiety, hunger & thirst, tension due to their enemies lurking around, and aggravation from other sheep.

David came to a place in his life where nothing was as it was before. He was alone, fearful for his life, betrayed, heartbroken, and without hope due to circumstances he was facing. Yet at a time when these troubles seemed more than he could bear, it was then King David remembered – thinking back to all he had learned during those earlier years as being a shepherd of sheep. He then knew God was calling him to “come. David, I am your Shepherd. I will meet your every need and you will lack for nothing.”

Yes in our weariness we need to remember. Sometimes our burden will bring us back to our Shepherd who will then “make us lie down in green pasture or lead us beside still waters”. He will meet our very need when we remember He is our Shepherd, the One we can be yoked with to walk this journey day by day in all types of weather, all kind of terrain and yes, in every season of change too! Remember today “He is gentle and humble in heart. With Him you and I will find rest. It’s a promise.

Today’s Thought

Today’s Thought

With the Hallmark holiday movies beginning, our stores stocking the shelves, and those who love planning ahead, some are talking Christmas already. In watching the Little House on the Prairie series pilot, Charles is worried about what they’d have to even give the children for Christmas. Caroline replies, “Charles, Christmas is Christ’s birthday not ours.”

Now before you get your fingers in a knot leaving a comment, let me share just a bit. Those of you who know our daughter, Karena, know she ’s the Christmas movies, right? In fact yesterday she was talking about the baby on “When Calls the Heart” 2019 Christmas episode. Her favorite part was the conclusion when he looked at his Mommy and for the first time said “Mama”.

This brought our conversation to when Uncle Fred Hinderliter came one Christmas Eve (we did this for several years) dressed as Santa. Karena was maybe 3 or 4 at the time. As he walked in, she got so excited and said
“Santa”! Why was this such a big deal? It was her first time to say a 2-syllable word! I’ve known for years (after all she’s 38+) for Karena, altho she loves presents, her love for Christmas is not about the gifts. It’s about family, friends, getting together, the laughter, the hugs, the music, the movies with happy endings, the special moments. You know – the feelings that surround Christmas!

For others, our upcoming holidays will bring sorrow, pain, loss, broken relationships, and even a mixture of anxiety & worry. Oh not because they don’t “know the reason for the season”, but their loss and grief is brought to
the forefront of emotions. We need to be mindful that we’re all on this journey together. Reach out a hand, send a few more cards, take time to visit over a cup of hot chocolate or maybe invite a neighbor to ride along with you to the store so they don’t have to drive this time. May the upcoming holiday season help us to consider “others” this year.

Enjoy the moments that you hold close to your heart. Treasure the memories that flood your mind. Think of what Caroline Ingalls said because Karena would express the same thing if she could. Yet, she does really. Her enthusiasm is about the whole bundle of the holidays but it’s because she knows the hope, the peace, the joy, and the love that Christ’s birth brought to her, to you, to me and yes, to others – to all of us!

And just “who” is Karena? She’s our 2nd of 5 children. She was born with Cerebral Palsy and went on to develop severe seizures in her 20’s. About 10-11 years ago she had her first C-scan and MRI (they didn’t have them years back when she was born) and we learned that Karena had Schizencephaly – hence the seizure increase that certainly stirred her life and ours a bit! I’ll save her story for another time! Tis the season – for giving. Giving of ourselves not just gifts. Give the gift of laughter, time, of helping – spread the Christmas Cheer just by honoring Christ’s birthday!