Christmas Poetry

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Christ came to earth, one blessed
Holy night, to offer
Redemption to a world, so lost in His sight
Immanuel is His name, our
Savior He chose to be.
Three gifts were brought to Him, by the
Magi, for the One who would be
Atonement for sins – offering
Salvation to you and me.

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Christmas Trees

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Have you ever noticed the differences in Christmas trees?

Some are simple – others are ornate.  Some are flocked – others are a beautiful evergreen.  Some are real – some are artificial.

It seems Christmas trees are a very personal thing in our country.  One person may have a designer tree full of gorgeous department store ornaments, ornate ribbons, and hundreds of lights.  Truly a sight to see.

Others may prefer a simpler decoration – perhaps just lights and some tinsel.  Or maybe all homemade decorations.  There are trees with ornaments depicting our hobbies and memorializing our deceased loved ones.  Some of us use garland, others use ribbons, some tinsel, and others pinecones.  Trees run the gamut from truly country-style to high-end upscale fashion.

Yes, Christmas trees are a personal expression of ourselves.  For us, our tree this year is one with multi-colored lights (I generally prefer clear, but am outnumbered by 3!) and decorations of all kinds.  There are the beautiful ones my Mom bought for my sister and I a couple of years ago.  There are ones the girls have made with no help from anyone.  A few were purchased at the girls’ first or second Christmases.  One is a photo ornament of my late father-in-law given to us by my sister-in-law last year.  Perhaps the most sentimental to me are the ones that John has chosen for the girls each year.  It is a special gift from him each year to his girls, and they all look forward to the tradition.  There are puffs of white tulle in various places on the tree (my attempt at simulating “snow” – actually very cute!), wonderful large ribbons of varying colors and types of ribbon – all made from bows received on ornately-wrapped gifts in the past.  Tucked in the tree in a few cozy spots are small teddy bears – remnants from a set of 12 we bought for Alexis when she was a toddler.  She insisted on using the red beaded garland, so that encircles the tree, as well as a 4′ length of cranberry garland she made this year.  With the exception of ONE – every ornament we have, I believe, is on the tree this year!  And, to top it off, they are all on the front 2/3 of the tree!  LOL….When I asked the girls if I could move a few to the back and rearrange a little – they both said, “NO!”  So, the tree remains a little “front heavy.”  Hopefully it will stand straight until Christmas!

The night our tree goes up, I always like to stay up after everyone goes to bed with the lights out and only the tree lit.  It somehow really helps to put me in the Christmas spirit.  This year was no different, and while I sat, God gave me this thought:

We (God’s children) are like Christmas trees. 

How?  Easy.  We are all different.  No two of us are exactly alike – we all come with different experiences (ornaments) and backgrounds (the tree itself).  The tree itself represents the whole of our lives, and the lights reveal His presence.  Like our individual Christmas trees are to us, we are all very special to Him, indeed. 

He sees the absolute beauty in each ornament as it adds something unique to our lives that no one else has.  He put it there!  The ornaments of our lives are used by the Lord to shape our hearts and bring us closer to Him, while showing an outward sign of what He has done for us, and can do for others.  The ornaments are one way for us to show the love of Christ.

He is the Light that illuminates our trees and shines so that the holes where ornaments are missing, or broken ornaments are placed, can be seen.  Clear or multi, the lights reveal empty spaces and magnify mistakes.  The Light of Christ reveals unrepented sin, and therefore, the lights are the most important of all the elements.

The tree itself was grown and handpicked specifically for us – God knew the exact tree:  shape, size, type, flocked or not – and He knows why that tree was chosen.  Sometimes we are disappointed in His choice of trees, but we shouldn’t be – #1 – we can’t change it.  Our past is our past and our background is what made us who we are today.  And #2, God has reasons far beyond our comprehension for choosing the background we have had.  He can and does use any circumstance for good, and for His purposes.

So, you see, your Christmas tree can remind you of more than the birth of Christ this year, although I am in no way taking that away.  I merely want to add that your Christmas tree can remind you, if you allow God to use it that way, of what He has brought you in your life.  Of what He has brought you out of in your life.  And when you look at the top of the tree – the star, the angel – let that be a reminder to know where He is taking you in your life.

I hope that after reading this, you look at your Christmas tree a little differently.  And I hope that you spend a little time in the Light of your tree, looking to the One who decorated it so beautifully.

Merry Christmas everyone.

Sharpen Your Sword (wk of 12/7/08)

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My mother said something last night I thought was awesome.  And, of course, I personally think my mom is a very wise, intelligent, brilliant, wonderful person (especially since I am just like her…ha ha ha!).  But, seriously, she made a statement in a conversation we were having that was very profound, yet very simple:

“The closer you get to God, the bigger your sins appear.”

Isn’t that true?  I know it is for me.  Recently, I have been reading and rereading Psalm 51 – a prayer for remission of sins.  If you’ve never read it, I encourage you to do so, prayerfully, as it is a Psalm that will allow God to reveal hidden sins in your life, and remind you that ALL sin is against Him.

1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to they lovingkindness:  according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions.

2 Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.

3 For I acknowledge my transgressions:  and my sin is ever before me.

4 Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in they sight:  that thous mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest.

5 Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.

6 Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts:  and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom.

7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean:  wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

8 Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice.

9 Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities.

10 Create in me a clean heart, O God;  and renew a right spirit within me.

11 Cast me not away from they presence;  and take not thy holy spirit from me.

12 Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation;  and uphold me with thy free spirit.

13  Then will I teach transgressors thy ways;  and sinners shall be converted unto thee.

14  Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, thou God of my salvation:  and my tongue shall sing aloud of thy righteousness.

15 O Lord, open thou my lips;  and my mouth shall shew forth thy praise.

16 For thou desirest not sacrifice:  else I would give it:  thou delightest not in burnt offering.

17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit:  and broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.

18 Do good in thine good pleasure unto Zion: build thou the walls of Jerusalem.

19 Then shalt thou be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness, with burnt offering and whole burnt offering:  then shall they offer bullocks upon thine altar.

 

Awesome words from an awesome God….

Tell us about your devotion times

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In an effort to jump-start devotions for those who haven’t yet begun them, or to reignite the fire for others, I’d like to talk about devotions.

Of course, I mean:  devotion times, quiet times, Bible reading, morning devotions, etc.

Would you be willing to share some of what you do?

Do you get up early or have your devotions late? 

Is it the first thing you do, or do you fix your coffee, etc., first?

How do you choose where you read in your Bible? 

Do you use a prepared study for this time, or is your time strictly Spirit-led?

Do you sing hymns, take walks, light candles, etc.?

Do you have a set length of time for your devotion or end when you feel God is “done for the moment?”

Do you take notes, and if so, do you do this by subject, or book?

How much of your quiet time do you devote to prayer, and what part of that prayer is speaking vs. listening?

Do you have additional family devotions?  If so, apply the above questions to those also, if you will.

If there is anything else you’d like to add, feel free!  Looking forward to yet another discussion!

The Wicker Basket

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I received this in an email and wanted to share it…timeless.

The story is told of an old man who lived on a farm in the mountains of eastern Kentucky with his young grandson.  Each morning, Grandpa was up early sitting at the kitchen table reading from his old worn-out Bible.  His grandson, who wanted to be just like him, tried to imitate him in anyway he could.

One day, the grandson asked, “Papa, I try to read the Bible just like you but I don’t understand it, and what I do understand, I forget as soon as I close the book.  What good does reading the Bible do?”

The Grandfather quietly turned from putting coal in the stove in the stove and said, “Take this old wicker coal basket down to the river and bring back a basket of water.”

The boy did as he was told, even though all the water leaked out before he could get back to the house.  The grandfather laughed and said, “You will have to move faster next time,” and send him back to the river with the basket to try again.

This time the boy ran faster, but again the old wicker basket was empty before he returned home.  Out of breath, he told his grandfather that it was “impossible to carry water in a basket,” and he went to get a bucket instead.

The old man said, “I don’t want a bucket of water, I want a basket of water.  You can do this.  You’re just not trying hard enough,” and he went out the door to watch the boy try again.

At this point, the boy knew it was impossible, but he wanted to show his grandfather that even if he ran as fast as he could, the water would leak out before he got far at all.  The boy scooped the water and ran hard, but when he reached his grandfather, the basket was again empty.

Out of breath, he said, “See Papa, it’s useless!”

“So you think it is useless?” The old man said, “Look at the basket.”

The boy looked at the basket and realized for the first time that the basket looked different.  Instead of a dirty old wicker coal basket, it was clean.

“Son, that’s what happens when you read the Bible.  You might not understand or remember everything, but when you read it, it will change you from the inside out.”

The Lord said in Isaiah 55:11

So shall my Word be that goeth forth out of My mouth:  it shall not return unto Me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.

I know many people, and I have been there myself, who struggle with reading their Bibles daily because they “just don’t get it.”  I am a firm believer in the KJV only approach (with much to back up my opinion), and therefore, some of the writing is a little more difficult to understand.  What’s more, sometimes the Word itself is challenging.  I think God is very VERY clear in His Word about everything, but I think our understanding requires obedience and a sincere desire to understand, thereby showing our love for Jesus.

About four and a half years ago, the person I charge with being my spiritual mentor (you know who you are JG!) gave me this sage advice:  “Pray and ask God to show you what He wants you to understand before you even open the Bible.”  Ask God to bless your reading at that time so that your spiritual eyes may be opened, paving the way for God to give you the understanding of whatever passage you are reading.

Sometimes, it takes reading, and rereading, and rereading again, before you “get it.”  Other times, it happens instantly.  But, one truth remains:  God can’t speak to you and show you His thoughts if you don’t read His word.  He speaks to us first through His written Word, and if we refuse to stay away from it – even out of fear of not understanding – we are shutting down a supply of blessings that would span our entire lifetime. 

New Year’s is coming up, and with it, New Year’s Resolutions.  Now, while I won’t make a “resolution,” I will have goals for the upcoming year.  How about you?  Will you make it a goal for the new year to read your Bible daily, and spend some time each morning with your Savior?  You will be blessed.  And that’s a promise from the King.

Tithes….what do you think?

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Recently, I have posted a few topics pertaining to blessings, gifts, and church finances.  This has brought up a discussion I figured we could all discuss – TITHES.

What do you think about tithing?  Please don’t give us specifics, as that is between you and the Lord, but just give us an idea of where you stand on the issue…

Is it necessary?

If so, is there an amount or percentage?

What scriptures are you using to make your decision?

Do all of your tithes, or offerings, go to your local church, or do you divide them between church and charities?

Do you consider giving of your time & other resources an offering as well, or do you feel that the term only refers to monetary gifts?

I know where we stand on the issue, but would prefer to get others’ input before I throw mine out.  I will say that my ideals have been recently challenged, and have changed. 

Please comment and let us know what you think – and remember, since this is a Christian issue, be sure to back up your thoughts with scripture references so the rest of us can check it out!

Looking forward to the discussion!

Toni

Iron sharpeneth iron…

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Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.  Proverbs 27:17

On our trip to Houston this past weekend, we were blessed to be able to stay at the home of some dear friends of ours.  (You know who you are!)  I cannot begin to count the ways the Lord has blessed us through them.  With loving kindness, they have brought a message from God to us on many different subjects.  And to top it off, they surprised us with another great blessing – another dear couple from our old church joined us for dinner!  It was a joyful reunion, and a gift and blessing that means so much to me.  Friends have always been very important in my life, and these two sweet couples simply define friends.  I have learned much from both, and look forward to spending eternity with such as these. 

This verse from Proverbs proves that we can learn from our friends and that having friends can definitely improve our attitude.  God uses our friends to show His grace, His comfort, His mercy, and His heart – sometimes.  No man is an island, is the saying.  A man with no friends is a very lonely man, indeed.

But be warned:  But all this was done, that the scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled.  Then all the disciples forsook Him, and fled.  Matthew 26:56. 

Friends are wonderful gifts from Jehovah, but we must be sure to keep our friendships in their right place.  They are a gift FROM God, not an idol to be placed on a pedestal.  Our friends are human, and therefore, completely fallible.  They will fail us on occasion.  There will be times when we call, and they will not be there.  There will be times when they don’t listen and grieve or mourn with us.  They will not always take our side in a battle, and we will have disagreements. 

But, there is hope!  There is One Friend we can always count on…One Friend who will never leave us nor forsake us. 

Isaiah 54:10  For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but My kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of My peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee.

John 14:18  I will not leave you comfortless:  I will come to you.

Hebrews 13:5  Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have:  for He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.

No matter what the circumstance…no matter if everyone else around us has fled the scene, Jesus remains.  When it seems no one is listening, He is.  And, it is my contention that sometimes He causes our human friends to forsake us so that we have to turn to Him.  He longs for us to run to Him first, every time.  He is waiting, with open arms, for the chance to comfort, to teach, to grieve, or to praise with you! 

I can honestly say that my best friend on earth is my husband.  I love him more than I can express with words (and I can talk – a lot!).  But, there are times when he can’t give me what I need.  Only Jesus can help at those times.  It is not a cause to be angry at or blame my husband for a shortcoming, because in doing so I am condemning the entire human race. 

We can’t be everything to ANYONE.  There is a void that only Christ can fill, and there is a limited time to ask Him to do so. 

So, I implore you this day, right now, if you have not asked the Lion of Judah, the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ to be your Best Friend – to save you from your sins and the wrath to come, do it now, while there is still time.

Standing on the Rock of Ages,

Toni