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Archive | Monday Minute in the Word

Christmas Miracles – Do you believe?

Do you believe in miracles? How about at Christmas? Eight years ago, I witnessed a Christmas miracle.

It was December 24, 2004. Our family had moved to Houston just a few months earlier. It would be our first Christmas in the south after six years in the Canadian Rockies. To me, balmy south Texas did not feel much like Christmas.

Our new church had rented snow machines and excitedly announced there would be “snow” for the Christmas Eve service. But the promise of fake snow did not excite me. It only seemed to highlight the sad fact that we would not be enjoying the view of white-topped mountains from our window on Christmas morning.

snow covered moutains

Then the impossible happened. Middle of the afternoon on Christmas Eve snow began to fall across southeast Texas. And it continued off and on for 24 hours! I danced around in the backyard. Then my daughters and I rushed off to Starbucks because snowfalls are even better with lattes.

The National Weather Service deemed our Christmas snow to be “historic and rare.” South Texas had not had such a snowfall since 1895! Just south of us, Galveston Island received as much as 10 inches of snow and people built snowmen on the beach. I felt like God had worked a miracle just to encourage me. And all of southeast Texas got to benefit from it.

By definition, a miracle is an unusual occurrence that transcends the normal bounds God established for our physical world. He accomplishes these acts by His supernatural means to prove His power and authority. They confirm the working of His grace in our lives (Acts 14:3).

Although that Christmas Eve snowfall in southeast Texas was physically possible, it was indeed rare. In Scripture, we see God working to fulfill His purposes through both supernatural miracles and the manipulation of His natural laws. The way I see it, on Christmas Eve 2004 God manipulated nature into the “perfect storm” to bless His discouraged child.

Do you need a miracle right now? Between now and Christmas, we will be taking a closer look at the miracles of the first Christmas and consider how God could work in a similar way in your life today. When God’s supernatural power collides with your natural circumstances your life will never be the same!

What area of your life needs God’s miraculous work today? Do you believe in miracles?

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Mary Believed

Do you believe that God will do what He says He will do?

Mary and Jesus

Photo courtesy of VisualBibleAlive.com

Two thousand years ago, God’s plan for salvation was put into motion when a young Jewish girl believed God and submitted to His plan for her. The angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and announced God’s plans to bring the Savior into the world through her. Mary’s answer? “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.”

And so it was. The virgin, Mary, became pregnant with the Hope of the world.

Soon after the angel’s visit, Mary went to visit her relative Elizabeth who was already six months along with the child who would be a “prophet of the Most High” and prepare the way for Jesus. (Luke 1:76). Elizabeth greeted Mary with these telling words:

Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished! Luke 1:45

God make His activity known to Mary. Because Mary believed that God could do what He said and therefore she got to participate in His plan to save the world. And I love her response!

And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me – holy is his name.”

Luke 1:46-49

I wonder, have I ever missed out on participating in some mighty work of God because I failed to believe that what He said would be accomplished?

What about you? Do you believe that what the Lord has said to you will be accomplished? Do you believe that His Word is true and powerful? Are you missing out?

What promise of God will you believe today? What mighty act of the Lord are you trusting will be accomplished?

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Thankful for the Unshakeable

Monday Minute in the Word, devotionalUncertainty looms in our country and in the world around us. What will happen in the Middle East? Will the United States plunge over the “fiscal cliff?” Will we be hit with another natural disaster like Hurricane Sandy?

Governments, economies, and nations can topple. Jobs, homes, health, and even life can be lost. All of these things are temporary. None of them were created to last forever. But there is a permanent, unshakeable Kingdom we can depend on – and be thankful for!

When God spoke from Mount Sinai his voice shook the earth, but now he makes another promise: “Once again I will shake not only the earth but the heavens also.” This means that all of creation will be shaken and removed, so that only unshakable things will remain. Since we are receiving a Kingdom that is unshakable, let us be thankful and please God by worshiping him with holy fear and awe. Hebrews 12: 26-29, NLT

Every year as Thanksgiving approaches we begin to reflect on the blessings God has poured into our lives. Family, friends, and church. Physical provision, health, and home. Most of us also express gratitude for our salvation in Christ and the abundant life He gives. But how often do we thank God for His eternal Kingdom?

No matter what earthly, temporal things fall away – and one day all of them will be removed – the Kingdom of God will never be shaken. God’s presence, authority, and power are unmovable and steadfast. His Kingdom is firmly established and our God will reign eternally!

If you have a saving relationship with Jesus Christ, you are a citizen of Heaven. You have a place in the unshakeable Kingdom of God!

Voice your thanksgiving to God today for His unshakeable Kingdom!

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Are you a wonderer or a mocker?

chocolateThe other day I talked with someone who doesn’t like chocolate. Her taste buds must be broken. That’s the only explanation. I also don’t understand why my friend Connie doesn’t like coffee. In fact, how did we even get to be friends?

Different people have different likes and preferences regarding food, clothing, decorating, entertainment, and a host of other very subjective things. I get that – sort of. People also respond differently to God and His activity. That’s a little harder to understand. Here’s an example from the book of Acts.

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.  Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? —we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?” Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.” Acts 2:1-8, 11b-13, NIV

Monday Minute in the Word, devotionalThe Holy Spirit descended on Jerusalem and filled the believers, enabling them to speak languages they had never learned! Wow! Thousands of Jews from around the world witnessed God’s powerful and dramatic activity. But they all did not respond the same way.

Some were filled with wonder and amazement. Others mocked the believers. Same God, same activity, but different responses. Both wonderers and mockers. Believers and doubters.

The wonderers believed God was the source of the miraculous happening. The mockers attributed the occurrence to too much wine.

Most of us probably shake our heads in amazement that the mockers could so easily reject the divine. Yet if I’m completely honest I know I sometimes do it too. In fact, so might you.

For instance, do we ever give credit for physical healing to the doctor and forget that God is the divine healer? Do we thank God for the new job or attribute it to our resume?

When I fail to notice God’s hand and give His credit away, I’m like those mockers in the second chapter of Acts. I pray I will be more sensitive to God’s activity so I can respond with wonder and amazement. And give Him the honor He deserves.

Let’s give God some overdue credit today! I’d love for you to share some God activity with us today!

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Nehemiah’s Thanksgiving Parade

This Thanksgiving marks the 86th year of the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Since 1924, Manhattan has welcomed the ever-growing line of floats, balloons, animals, bands, and more.

When we think “Thanksgiving parade” we automatically think “Macy’s.” But did you know there’s a thanksgiving parade in the Bible?

Long before the Pilgrims shucked corn with the Native Americans, God’s people thanked Him for His blessings. In fact, they went all out.

About 450 years before the birth of Jesus, Nehemiah left Babylon on a mission: to rebuild the walls and gates around Jerusalem. God moved King Artaxerxes to give Nehemiah permission, protection, and supplies. (Note: In 586 BC, Jerusalem was destroyed by Babylon and the Israelites were carried away into exile. The first group of exiles returned in 538 and the temple was completed in 515 BC.)

Nehemiah's Thanksgiving parade

photo courtesy of visualbiblealive.com

The journey from Babylon to Jerusalem was long and difficult, but the rebuilding project was even harder. The pagan people surrounding Jerusalem opposed the rebuilding of the wall. Nehemiah and the other Israelites had to work with one hand and hold a weapon in the other. Half the men worked and the other half guarded them.

But God was with them and after just 52 days, the wall was finished! It was time to celebrate and thank God for His mighty provision.

At the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem, the Levites were sought out from where they lived and were brought to Jerusalem to celebrate joyfully the dedication with songs of thanksgiving and with the music of cymbals, harps and lyres.  The musicians also were brought together from the region around Jerusalem… I had the leaders of Judah go up on top of the wall. I also assigned two large choirs to give thanks. One was to proceed on top of the wall to the right… as well as some priests with trumpets… and also Zechariah son of Jonathan… and his associates— with musical instruments… Ezra, the teacher of the Law, led the procession…

The second choir proceeded in the opposite direction. I followed them on top of the wall, together with half the people… At the Gate of the Guard they stopped…  The two choirs that gave thanks then took their places in the house of God; so did I, together with half the officials, as well as the priests… with their trumpets… The choirs sang… And on that day they offered great sacrifices, rejoicing because God had given them great joy. The women and children also rejoiced. The sound of rejoicing in Jerusalem could be heard far away.  Excerpts from Nehemiah 12:27-43, NIV

I would have loved to have seen the Israelite’s parade! Singers, music, and sacrifices. On the ground and on the wall. Men, women, and children. Old and young. The sound of rejoicing was so great it “could be heard far away.” All those who had opposed them knew that the Israelite’s God had done great things.

Macy’s started their Thanksgiving parade in New York City to draw attention to their store. Nehemiah’s “parade” drew attention to their God.

Who – or what – will get the attention on our Thanksgiving? The turkey? Football? Family? I pray our rejoicing draw attention to our God. And wouldn’t it be great if the neighbors heard?

What can we do to make sure God gets the attention He deserves this Thanksgiving?

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Spilling Out All Over

I thought it would fit, I really did. But when I dumped the leftover soup with one quick Monday Minute in the Word, devotionalmotion into the waiting Tupperware bowl I discovered I my judgment was way off. Yummy Beef Barley soup rushed over the edges of the bowl onto the counter and splashed up on everything nearby. The natural consequence of putting way too much in a limited container.

In his letter to the Christians in Colosse, the apostle Paul paints a similar picture of thanksgiving:

And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him.Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness. Colossians 2:6-7, NLT

In these verses, Paul describes a spiritually strong Christian. Her faith was initially grounded – or rooted – once for all time in the foundation of the Gospel of Christ. From that truth, God continues to build her up, or grow her, into Christ’s likeness. As she grows, her faith is continually strengthened as she learns to trust in and depend on Christ. Thanksgiving, then, is the natural result.

Thanksgiving will come naturally to a Christian who is firmly established in Christ and growing in her faith. She will be so aware of the overwhelming work God has done in her life, she will “overflow with thankfulness.”

The Greek word translated as “overflow” means “to exceed a certain number of measure; to come in abundance: overflowing.” God pours so much mercy, grace, and blessing into our lives, we don’t have enough room to contain it. As we recognize His many gifts to us, thankfulness will rush out around us, splashing everything nearby.

Do people in your and my life get splashed with thankfulness? Is our gratitude for everything God has done for us in Christ obvious? If not, let’s contemplate His goodness toward us and allow thanksgiving to overflow our edges.

How can we express thanksgiving to God today in ways that people will notice?

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Love Him, Love Them Not

Do you love God?  Most of us would probably quickly say “yes, absolutely!”

Now for the trick question: Do you love God’s people like you love yourself (Mark 12:31)? Enough to “lay down your life” for a brother or sister in Christ (John 15:12-13)?

Do I hear a bit of hesitation? If we’re really honest – yes, me too – our answer to the second question may not be as enthusiastic as our agreement to the first.

Lately God has reminded me about the nature of the love He calls us to embrace. We cannot separate our love for God from our love for other Christians.

If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.

1 John 4:20, NIV

I can say I love God… but if I don’t love His people, I don’t really love God with all my “heart, soul, mind, and strength” (Mark 12:30-31). If I really love God, I will also love His people.

But that’s asking too much, isn’t it? People can be really hard to love sometimes. They can be selfish, mean, and hurtful. How can we feel love for people like that?

Monday Minute in the Word, devotionalHere’s the good part: We don’t have to muster up feelings of love. We can purposefully choose to love.

The Greek word translated as “love” in Mark 12, John 15, and 1 John 4 is agape. According to the The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, “agape love is capable of being commanded because it is not primarily an emotion but a decision of the will leading to action.”

We can choose to love those who are hard to love because God’s kind of love is not a gushy, emotional feeling, it’s an act of volition. We can choose to act loving even when we don’t feel loving. We can choose to serve, give, comfort, encourage, and help. And our fellow Christians can choose to love us too! In fact, one of the primary ways we feel God’s love for us is through His people acting in love towards us.

No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.  1 John 4:12, NLT

Is there a fellow believer that needs to receive God’s love through you today? How can you love them in a concrete way?

 

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You can be God’s Treasured Possession

Monday Minute in the Word, devotionalAs my husband’s fortieth birthday approached (it’s been a while!), I spent several months putting together a scrapbook to commemorate the milestone. I asked Wayne’s mom to send baby pictures, and I contacted his friends from childhood and early adult years to send photos and greetings. He loved the gift!

In the book of Malachi, the people who chose to fear God, also made a special book – or scroll – to record how they felt about God. Here’s the account:

16 Then those who feared the Lord talked with each other, and the Lord listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the Lord and honored his name. 17 “On the day when I act,” says the Lord Almighty, “they will be my treasured possession. I will spare them, just as a father has compassion and spares his son who serves him. 18 And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not. Malachi 3:16-18, NIV

These God-fearers were a remnant within a remnant, just a portion of the people God brought back to Jerusalem from exile in Babylon. They made a conscious choice to take a stand for God and honor His name in the midst of a culture that was simply going through the motions of religion. Sound at all familiar?

God responded with pleasure. He inclined His ear to their commitment and claimed them as His “treasured possession.” He made a promise to spare them when He comes in judgment.

Scripture presents “godly fear” as the proper response to our holy God. Here’s some other promises found in the book of Psalms God makes to those who fear Him:

  • He will confide in them (Ps 25:14)
  • He will bestow His goodness on them (Ps 31:19)
  • His eyes will be on them to help them (Ps 33:18-19)
  • He will treat them with compassion (Ps 103:13)
  • He will be their helper and protector (Ps 115:11)
  • He will fulfill their desires, hear their cries, and save them (Ps 145:19)

And this is only a sampling of the blessings promised to those who fear God. Have you ever made a choice to fear God? Do you long to be God’s treasured possession?

Let’s talk: Do you fear God? What does it mean to “fear God?”

Note: If you’d like to learn more about what it means to fear God, take a look at Kathy’s Bible study “Before His Throne.” Purchase now on Amazon. Watch a video introduction to the study on You Tube.

 

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Can’t you just be still?

Monday Minute in the Word, devotionalSeveral years ago I went away to spend two days alone with God. For my spiritual retreat, I chose a hotel in a tiny town with one street. There was no television, radio, or room service. Just me and my heavenly Father. Sounds great, right?

I quickly discovered I had a lot to learn about silence, solitude, and spending focused time in prayer. As the sun set on that first day I felt restless and just a little bit panicked. What was I going to do with all this time alone with God?

Be still, and know that I am God… Psalm 46:10a, NIV

Psalm 46 celebrates the presence of God with His people. The psalmist calls the people of God to forget all the things that vie for our time and attention and be still before the only One is who is deserving.

Forget the clock. Forget the to-do list. Forget everything and be still before Him. Often said; seldom done.

We often cite busy lives, a lack of time, as the reason we don’t spend more time still before God. Yes, our culture not only fosters a busy lifestyle, it honors it.

But did you know the average American spends 8 1/2 hours a day watching television, using computers, and in various other forms of entertainment? (Article in New York Times, Dec. 2006)

Think for a minute. How much time do you spend in these activities? How much time do you spend in prayer?

Praying, sitting still in the presence of God, is how we come to know Him, experience Him; learn to depend on Him. If we believe in the power of prayer, and more specifically the nature of the God to whom we pray – then we will pray. Regularly and often; continuously and fervently.

I haven’t gotten this right. I am still a prayer babe. Like an active toddler who can’t sit still for five minutes, I so often sit down with God only to be up and moving again far too soon.

But I’m practicing Psalm 46:10. Because it’s in the stopping and the stillness and the waiting that we meet Him.

How are you doing with sitting still before God? In what specific ways do you struggle? What tips can you share for “being still?”

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Want Strong Faith? Add Stress!

Do you want stronger muscles? You need stress.

trials work our faith“Stress” makes our muscles bigger and stronger. When we lift a heavier load than our muscles have lifted before, a physical process begins to adapt the needed muscles to the new load. Without stress, our muscles are content with their current size and strength. Add stress, and our muscles begin to change to meet the need.

Our spiritual strength is similar. The difficulties of life “stress” our faith. Trials work our faith like heavy loads work our muscles. As we faithfully endure, we grow spiritually stronger. Without difficulty, our faith tends to stagnate.

Do you want stronger faith? You need stress.

Years ago, I noticed that my friends with the strongest and most unshakeable faith were the same friends that had faced many trials and difficulties. A friend with breast cancer. A friend who just lost her mother. A friend whose husband couldn’t find a job.

I also noticed that not only was my life easy, but my faith had also grown stagnant. I continued to study God’s Word and acquire more knowledge, but I knew there was much more. I began to pray that God would refine and strengthen my faith. And He answered!

Many difficulties began to pop up. Our house flooded. Our oldest daughter was stalked by a schoolmate. My mother-in-law was killed in a car accident. We were transferred. All these things happened in the same few months. I had to cling to God, trust Him, and follow closely. The refining process had begun.

Trials work our faith.

The New Testament writers agree. James, Paul, and Peter all taught that God uses trials to refine and develop our faith. Here’s a passage from James’ letter:

Dear brothers and sisters,when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. James 1:2-4, NLT

In the midst of trials we learn to lean and depend on God. As He proves Himself Monday Minute in the Word, devotionalpowerful, faithful, and reliable our faith in Him grows and strengthens. And because we must cling to Him so closely during difficulties a deeper intimacy develops in our relationship.

Like using our muscles to carry heavier loads make them stronger, the trials of life gives our faith a workout. God will use them to grow and develop your faith so you will be spiritually mature, not lacking anything!

Are you facing trials and difficulties today? How is God using them to grow and strengthen your faith?

 Note: Come back Thursday when we’ll talk about how “Trials Prove our Faith Works!”

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