When Believers And Unbelievers Share Christmas

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews?  For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”  When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him…   Matthew 2:1-3

It’s not a secret that Christmas and other holidays are difficult for many.  It’s trending, even, to talk about it.  So how are we supposed to process the holiday of all holidays when so much may be wrong?

I think every Crèche or manger scene should include a malevolent King Herod standing woodenly off in the distance.  Think about it.  We have the shepherds, but what about the sword bearing soldiers?  We have the three kings but no murderous Caesar with his crosses.  Sure, there were cute sheep.  But where’s there’s sheep, there’s sheep smells.  We have straw but no midwife.  Just Joseph.  He was a new husband and father to the Son of God.  He wouldn’t answer to God as only God, but as Heavenly Father.

The first Christmas was stressful as well as joyful.  It was pain and hardship in the cold, broken only by angels singing from on high.   We three kings wouldn’t even make an appearance for another couple of years; Herod in hot pursuit.  Mary continued to ponder all of this in her heart, sheep smells and all.

Christmas, here on earth, is supposed to be a glimmer, a sparkle in the darkness.  Many spend time with guests and/or extended family that despise Jesus.  Our family of four will too, unfortunately.  We will be spiritually prepared as the atmosphere of our home is challenged.  For me personally, every time our family guests spit venom when Jesus’ name is mentioned, I will remember the weeping in Ramah.  This city in Israel was full of recently delivered mothers with milk, but with no sons to feed.

When a person refuses to let Jesus into His own birthday celebration, we can remember how there was no room in the inn.  While enemies of our lord sit nearby, we can ponder in our hearts what Jesus did for us.  As for our two children, we will pray with them and still celebrate the birth of the Son who came to set us free.
Heavenly Father, You sent Your precious son into this less than perfect world.  The things that go wrong are just reminders of how much I need that baby in the manger.  Keep my eyes fixed on You.  In Jesus Name, Amen

What do you look forward to the most about Christmas?

When was the first time that you were disappointed around Christmas?

Write a thank you note to Jesus for coming to save us.

Holy Commonality

Holy Commonality

You made him a little while lower than the angels; you have crowned him with glory and honor… Hebrews 2:7

I like to find out what I share in common when I first meet a new person. If I’m open to finding a similarity, it will always become evident. And that is one of the most important aspects of Christmas.

I have a friend who, for whatever reason, chooses to see what makes himself different from other people. He does this for the purpose of judging. If you are always looking for something bad in other people, you will always find it. It’s not exactly the best way to go about making friends. So what did our God do? He didn’t just go about finding out what we had in common, He sent His Son to us, as a human. A baby human!

In a culture that values uniqueness, it’s important to rediscover the holiness in the common, the normal, the everyday. Our God is not common, but He made Himself into a person, like us. Up to this point His people could only look up to their Father in Heaven. But God wanted to do something new. Something common, yet supernatural. He wanted us to be able to look straight into the face of Jesus the Son. Jesus didn’t just come to be like one of us. He came AS one of us! How marvelous! Finally, once and for all, we could look into the very face of Mercy. Human, yet perfect. Flesh, yet sinless.

That is how much our God wanted a close relationship with each one of us. So, while our humanity is common and everyday, it is also precious and holy. It’s nothing short of miraculous. We are that valuable to God. So have you accepted that we all need Jesus? We all share that in common. That TV preacher needs Jesus as much as the junkie sitting in the gutter. Will you accept that today? Just ask Him. He won’t withhold Himself from you.

Heavenly Father, Thank you so much for wanting a relationship with me. Your Son is so precious to me! I celebrate His first arrival by loving those around me., In Jesus Name Amen

God’s Donkey

God’s Donkey

And the angel of the LORD said to him, “Why have you struck your donkey these three times? Behold, I have come out to oppose you because your way is perverse before me.” Numbers 22:32

How did we get in this political mess? And why do we put so much stock in our leaders, both religious and secular? God’s Word gives us answers to both.

After the children of Israel left Egypt and approached their new country, Joshua read the law to the people, corporately. In addition, they were to each meditate on it day and night. This is the same law that our same God gave to Moses on top of Mount Sinai. The Judges and Prophets followed in this manner. Remember Deborah? This amazing prophetess helped guide Israel to victory. Then there was Samuel, who said, “Speak Lord, I’m listening.” May we all respond to our Father this way.

Eventually, the people began to fall away and demand a king despite all of the prophets’ warnings of future tyrannical rule. God answered by giving them Saul with the evil spirit. After that followed David, and then Solomon. The kings were required to write out God’s Word by hand and study the law. And yet, this didn’t stop the kingdom from splitting.

So what do we do when we have no good options? What do we do when we have to choose between bad and worse? Our amazing God knew our predicament ahead of time. Look at all of the godless people He has used for His purposes. Consider the evil people that He has turned into good. Look at the donkey that He made to speak! And remember all of the holy people that He placed close to the ear of kings. Esther, Daniel…

So if God can make a donkey speak, can we trust our God to do the same with politicians? I believe so. Today I’m praying for wisdom. And, I’m praying for God’s donkey.

Heavenly Father, I thank you for knowing what will happen.  You don’t slumber or sleep so that I can rest. I trust You!  In Jesus’ name, Amen 

Questions and activities:

Listen to God Is In Control by Twila Paris

What situations have you seen God turn from bad to good?

Why do you think God chose for you to live during this time period?

Write out Romans 8:28 and memorize it.

My Hope Speaks

We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek. Hebrews 6:19 and 20

We all need hope. I long for it desperately. It is sometimes the only thing that keeps me going.

Reading and watching the Anne of Green Gables series was, and still is, one of my favorite pastimes. Early on, there is a scene when Anne, an orphan, finds out that her new guardians might not keep her. She said, “Tonight, I am in the depths of despair.” Her foster mother rebukes her saying, “To despair is to turn your back on God.” While I think Marilla, Anne’s foster mother, is being a bit harsh to a child, this answer is perfectly appropriate for most adults. To despair is to lose hope. Hope is to believe what we cannot see.  That means that total and utter despair is to deny God’s power. Even Job, broken and at his worst, declared that he, in his flesh, would see God. He knew that in the end, all things would be made right.

What would it look like if I chose to stand and fight for hope in my life? Every choice I made, and every thought I would have, would go through this sieve and have the effect of anchoring my soul. This war is not made of flesh and blood but is of a spiritual nature.

Today, will you stand with me believing that we are more than what we feel? We are lovely, pure, beloved, and worth dying for. Don’t give into the despair of unbelief. Let the Son of God be the anchor of your soul. He won’t allow it to blow away to far and remote sections of the ocean. (As if He couldn’t reach you there. He could. The Bible tells me so.)

So Beloved of God, believe. Receive. Walk. Live. Worship. That will be the best antidote to keep you from falling back into the pit of devastation. Take it from someone who knows.

Heavenly Father, Your Word says that You keep my foot from slipping. I’m plummeting into unbelief. I am being worn thin. Wrap me in Your arms. Hide me in the safety of Your name. In Jesus Name, Amen


Whose opinions do you value?

Do they line up with God’s truth?

In what areas of life do you struggle with unbelief?

It’s Not What I Dreamed

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10

Disappointment. It’s one of the most devastating words in our language. It conjures up the memories of circumstances where my soul was in the pit.

So what do you picture when you hear or read the work “disappointment?” Despair, devastation, destruction?  Shame, guilt, loss?  There was nothing I wanted to hear less growing up than “I am disappointed in you.” And then there’s personal disappointment, like . . . “This isn’t how my life was supposed to turn out”. For men, it usually has to do with career, or so I’ve been told. That great job that they worked so hard for isn’t found to be satisfying or they didn’t get it at all. For we women, it has to do with a variety of things. The loss could be about a career, marriage, or lack of it, children, or appearance. (We have our marriage on the horizon, as the Church to the Lamb, so don’t despair!) Job had it worst of all. He had everything: respect, property, children, marriage, and money, and it was taken away. His wife was there but her comfort to him was “Curse God and die.”

I struggle with disappointment. I build up in my head how I think things should be. But rarely does anything in this life live up to what’s I envisioned. So why does God allow us these dreams if they are not to be fulfilled? God has a specific dream for each one of us; a dream that brings glory to His name. Our ability to imagine gives us a taste of Heaven. This life was never supposed to satisfy. No matter how hard we try, it will never be enough for us. Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit. David committed adultery with Bathsheba. Solomon had hundreds of wives and eventually hundreds of gods. If anyone knew better, it was the richest and wisest man of his time! Only can God change and heal our hearts if we pursue Him. No, our lives will not be perfect, but they will fulfill the holy dream that God created for us before the foundations of this earth.

Heavenly Father, You are a good father. Show me Your dream for my life because my dream has become a heavy yoke around my neck. I don’t want to miss the work that You have for me. Let my life bring glory to Your Name. In Jesus Name, Amen


How have you been disappointed in your life?

Can you see how God is pursuing you?

Ask God what His dream is for your life.

The Most Beautiful

Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! Psalm 34:8

There’s more to the sadness we have over our unbelieving loved ones. Many of them think we want them sitting next to us in a pew, being part of our special club. That’s just not it.

My grief over unbelieving loved ones is not just about where they will go when they die nor us not seeing eye to eye. It’s the beauty; the loveliness that is Jesus Christ and what He did for us. I’m so captivated by Him that at times it about blows me over. Take the best smell, the devastatingly delicious foods, the most gorgeous music, the sights so colorful, and add infinity with the deepest love. And that doesn’t even begin to capture it. But they don’t see it. It’s foolishness to them. This beautiful grace that is saving both you and me is nonsense to them. We cry out to them, “Taste and see that the Lord is good,” and they look at us as if we said that we believe in unicorns. What I think will reach my loved ones only alienates them even more. My own clumsy attempts at personal evangelism push them away.

And then I remember, it’s not me who saves. It’s not me who gave up everything so we could have everything. It’s not me who has “Faithful and True” written on their thigh. No. Only Jesus. Only the Spirit of truth can whisper that subtle beckoning to a heart so cold that the person is almost dead ~ and then set them on fire.

Does that mean that I will give up? No. And you shouldn’t either. But we need to remember that we can’t always even guess what will remove the spiritual blindfold. So we remain faithful and ask our God to hide our loved ones in His name. Only the name of Jesus saves and heals.

Heavenly Father, Only You have wept with me in the middle of the night over my unsaved loved ones. Reveal to them Your beauty. Call them and open their eyes. Keep them so that none may be lost. In Jesus name, the only Name that saves, Amen


List unsaved friends and family.

What have you said to them about Jesus?

What was their response?

Write out a prayer for them and pray it.

Tests of Humility, Tests of Friendships

Tests of Humility, Tests of Friendship

Job 1:22
In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.

We know Job for the incredible testing he endured: loss of property, riches, children, and health. But what about the less tangible yet equally devastating losses?

Job was laid low with his head bowed, and surrounded by his closest confidants. They chose to believe the worst of him despite everything they knew about him. Everyone had an opinion. Fools even ridiculed him. On top of that, he felt more than one evil presence near him when he was alone and trying to sleep. Can you imagine it?

To some degree its human nature to try to figure out why something happened. In arrogance, Job’s friends hurled accusations at him because his life had been destroyed. They believed he had to be at fault somehow. But before we get too hard on Job’s friends, lets remember that they sat with him in grief for seven days. I don’t know many people who would do that. And from what they said, they were true followers of God. They were just not humble in this area and were grasping at straws because they wanted an answer. If Job were guilty of some terrible sin, then all of this tragedy would make sense by their standards. He could have at least had peace that he deserved all of this heartbreak. I can hear them saying, “Job, man, just admit your secret sin and everything will be okay.”

One of the worst experiences ever is to witness a loved one in pain. You would do anything to stop it or, at the very least, make some sense of it. The act of watching can be its own test. We know that Job was innocent but it would be so much harder for his friends to admit that. If he could lose everyone he loved, all his possessions, and his health, then it could happen to any of them.

Heavenly Father, I can never completely know what is in Your head or heart. You alone are God. Give me eyes of discernment to know what to say to friends who are in pain. In Jesus Name, Amen


What is the worst thing that you have ever experienced?

What did people say to comfort you?

Do you feel that you were judged fairly?

Worthless Idols

Worthless Idols

“They worshiped worthless idols until they became worthless themselves.”  2 Kings 17

We want people to believe happy lies about us or just see us as we see ourselves.  Of course, that is sin.

I grew up in a few different Christian communities and attended a number of Christian schools.   It was a mixed experience for me.  The education from a Christian world-view was beyond enriching and I will always be grateful for that.  But there was a downside.   The spiritual environment was such that most everyone policed one another.  Most of the acting was done off-stage.  Appearance, both physical and spiritual was, and remains to this day, the popular idol.

God is sovereign which means that God is in charge.  He can choose to intervene at any time.  In spite of this, we live as if our lives belong to us:  our bodies, our children, our spouse, our dwelling place, our church, our children’s school, and even our country.  And, we’re fixated on the things we want. (Thinness, perfect health, happy marriage, well-behaved children, a clean and well-decorated house, a well-respected reputation, a giant degree from an Ivy League school…)

What I’m learning is that God sometimes withholds our idols to grow a kind of humility in us.  We realize that there are some things we can’t control.  That’s been a tough one to learn.  A few years ago, my own body revolted against me.  For around 18 months, every time I had blood work done, the lab found something bad.  I did all of the right things to take care of myself but my body was not having any of it.  I wanted to be a glowing model of radiant health to prove to the world that I really was being diligent!  Pride anyone?

The other reality is that we can’t control what other people think about us. So, I ask myself, what lies do I value?  What image do I want other people to see when they look at me?  These are idols.  I will always work to be better, by the grace of God, but until Heaven, I will always fall short.  My idols are worthless and if I spend my life pursuing them, my God-given purpose on this earth will be wasted.  I want to be consumed with the things that comprised Jesus’ passion.

Heavenly Father, even Job grieved how he was perceived by others but he always kept his eyes on You.  I give You my worthless idols.  I don’t want my pursuits to be worthless in Your kingdom.  Change my heart and my mind so that I follow You, only!  In Jesus Name, Amen

Ask God to show you any worthless idols in your life.
What are they?
Find and write out specific scriptures that fight those idols and meditate.

Hearts Of Flesh

Hearts of Flesh

So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts, to follow their own counsels. Psalm 81:12

A soft heart is a characteristic that our culture flings out the window. Our world desires kindness but a kindness that only goes skin deep.

We live in a politically correct culture, where everyone, including myself, suffers from hurt feelings. (I’m a Christian woman, an adoptee, and of Mexican background so it’s not difficult to figure out what bothers me.) Instead of taking what people say at face value, we ask, “Wait, what do you mean by that!” We read into everything, valuing our very subjective and changeable emotional responses above everything else. Our skin is thin but our hearts are hard.

Thin-skinned people often tread lightly with others out of selfish motivation. Do we actually care about the feelings of others? Not always.

For instance, we don’t want people to be mad at us.. We value the inverse of what God wants. In my family, we pray every day that God would give us a heart of flesh, not of stone. A heart of flesh is tender and teachable, capable of loving. Not like Pharaoh, who defiantly hurt God’s people. It’s the kind of love that desires the best for others, a heart that says, I’m sorry,” not to placate or diffuse a situation, but because there’s true remorse. No one is guiltier of a false apology than me. It’s become such a bad habit, almost like a figure of speech. It’s anxiety driven and not heart-felt. I have bowed before the altar of acceptance and calm instead of rending my heart and weeping over my city.

Oh, God, let my heart be tender and teachable. Never give me over to the gray of a stony path. If being close to You means the discomfort of conviction, I choose you! In Jesus Name, Amen


-Have you held back on saying something you should to someone you know?


– God created feelings so they are important to some degree. Are you ever reckless with your words or even your silences?

Does God Love Us More Than He Hates Sin?

And there I will meet the children of Israel, and the tabernacle shall be sanctified by my glory. Exodus 29:43

If God hated sin more than He loved us, He would let us burn. But instead, He made a way out. Sin and death will be defeated, but we will live with Christ forever.

God wanted a relationship with people, so He created them, us. Sin is the enemy’s attempt to separate humankind from their Creator and bring about their destruction. So of course, God hates sin. It twists all that is good and hurts people while promising to be a balm. It is a product from the father of lies.

In our culture, we have become the “whited sepulchers,” creating rules that God did not create and deciding, based on our own personal biases, who can be included. We’ve fallen into the trap and dragged along throngs of others with us. Sin does a good enough job putting distance between God and us, but we feel that we need to add more rules and barriers. This does not point the way to God, but instead gives the push to slide into Hell.

Does holiness matter? Absolutely! But it’s not something we can attain. God gave Moses sharp and clear instructions on how to build the temple, the earthly representation of the human heart. And then He said, “My glory will sanctify the tabernacle.” HIS glory. There is nothing that we can put in there to improve upon the temple. All we do is sully it. We bring nothing. And without our Creator, we are nothing. He is the source of worth. He makes us worthy of love and forgiveness. He makes it possible for us to resemble His Son, Jesus. What a miracle! How marvelous! So, I ask today, can we ask Jesus for a barebones faith? Oh, Savior of my heart, remove the dross of artifice so that I may resemble You!

Heavenly Father, Forgive me of ever thinking that I don’t need You. I praise You for every weakness in my life because they are reminders of how much I need You. I bring nothing but myself and I acknowledge that I can do that only because You empowered me to draw near. Fill me with Your glory so that I may be full of Your love. In Jesus Name, Amen


What does it mean to be saved?

Is salvation about anything that we can do?

Do you believe that God loves us more than He hates sin?