Thursday, December 29, 2011

What's Your Orientation?

I once went through an “astronomy phase.” Right out of college, I started collecting books about astronomy, and wanted to be able to recognize the major constellations. I bought the books that had the beautiful, full-color photographs of star systems and all kinds of galaxies. Every day God sees these wonders which are high above us. One of my favorite pastors used to say that the universe is God’s playground.

I had trouble though in learning the constellation patterns. The constellations clearly look like what they are supposed to in the books, which “connect the dots” and allow you to see the outlines of the figures. The lion is a lion, the twins are twins, and the big dipper flies close to its little dipper. My favorite one is Orion. He clearly looks like a hunter on paper, and in the night sky, it’s pretty easy to recognize him, with his dagger gleaming. But the other constellations aren’t so easy. The Big Dipper and the North Star still elude me today. To find the North Star, your orientation has to start from the Big Dipper. But if you can’t find the Big Dipper (like me), you’re out of luck.

To find what we really want in life, our orientation needs to begin from the right place. Do we want love? Do we want joy? Do we want satisfaction and peace? The pursuit of these good things begins in a relationship with God, and the attainment only comes when we keep God as the center of our lives. If our lives are oriented around Him, everything will fall into place. But when we make the center of our lives something other than God, everything will fly out of control and we will end up with chaos. When we make God our orientation, we will be able to find what will truly satisfy our hearts, and we will have a Guide who will lead us through the darkest of nights.

What things do you want to pursue in the new year? What do you hope will happen? May God be the Light that guides you and warms your heart in 2012. We could have no better orientation than God Himself. I hope you enjoy the beginning of this new year and share each day of it with the One who calls the stars by name and treasures each of His children. God bless you!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Let My Words Be Few

“Do not be rash with your mouth, and let not your heart utter anything hastily before God. For God is in heaven, and you are on earth; therefore let your words be few” (Eccl 5:2 NKJV).

Have you ever heard the song “Let My Words Be Few” performed by Phillips, Craig, and Dean? This praise song is based on Ecclesiastes 5:2, and for the longest time I couldn’t relate to the idea of letting my words be few before God. I figured that the more words I used in my prayer times, the more God would know that I loved Him. I am a person of many words. I have written in so many spiritual journals over the years. They are stuffed in drawers in my room and in boxes in the attic. I could easily go on and on about a subject and share everything I know about it. Are you like that?

Then this year happened. Through a series of struggles and victories, I have reason to keep silent. This year has put me in awe, more than ever, of the greatness, faithfulness, and love of God. I have seen Him work in my life and in others’ lives in awe-inspiring ways. It seemed to me that everywhere I turned, God was there, with arms opened wide, truth to encourage my heart, and power to set things right when they needed to be. Now, in my quiet times with God, when I truly think about who He is and what He does on our behalf, I have no words. Just silence. And a love for Him that I hope grows every day.

The happy thing is, God delights in our praise. He inhabits the praises of His people (Psalm 22:3 KJV). We can tell Him in one sentence why we love Him, or we can spend all day thinking about who He is and thanking Him for it. Whether we pour out our hearts before Him as Psalm 62:8 encourages us to do, or just sit silent in His presence as Psalm 46:10 commands us, God delights in our praise. He desires that we walk with Him in fellowship and in prayer all day long (1 John 1:3; 1 Thess. 5:17). So I want to take the time on a regular basis to sit in His presence and just be in awe of Him, but I also want to spend the rest of my life writing about who He is, praising Him as a lifestyle, and helping the world to know the God whom we know, love, and serve. There’s no one like Him.

“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations. I will be exalted in the earth!” (Psalm 46:10 NKJV).

Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Christmas Love Letter

Dear God,

You wrote us a “love letter” when You sent us Jesus. He is the Word of God, the fullest expression of Your love.

Here’s my love letter to You. And Father, Merry Christmas!

When I look at Your world, I see all the beauty that is there. The blue skies, snow-capped mountains, and tropical islands. Morning and evening I am in awe of the sunrises and sunsets You paint in the sky. You begin and end each day with beauty. But then I also remember all the heartache that’s in the world—broken relationships, missed opportunities, crushed spirits, and enormous need. Apart from You, we have no hope. But You can rescue us. You give us hope that life with You can be so much better than life on our own. That’s when You show us the truth of Your word and what You want for us—an abundant life.

Because Jesus came, Your dreams for us can become a reality—satisfaction, love, joy, peace, and victory. His death for us brings us life, but death didn’t hold Him. He is a living Savior, a constant Friend, a caring Shepherd, and a sympathetic High Priest. Thank You for sending Your Son so long ago. His love is still so perfect, His power unlimited, and His grace abundant. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

This Christmas I celebrate Jesus, and I am grateful that You sent Love to earth as a baby. I’m grateful that He grew up to live a perfect life, and He gave His life for us. I’m grateful for the life we can have with Him, now and forever. So I want to love You back, and live for You today and throughout the new year! In Jesus’ strong and precious name, Amen.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Joy of a Christmas Song

I am not opposed to singing Christmas songs all year long. I love them. At any time of the year, you can find me singing or whistling a Christmas tune. There’s something about the joy of a Christmas song that finds a place in your heart and you can’t let it go even when the Christmas season is over.

Here’s a sample of my Christmas Playlist:
• O Holy Night – Point of Grace
• Jesus Saves – Travis Cottrell
• Breath of Heaven – Amy Grant
• White Christmas – Bing Crosby
• Don’t Save It All for Christmas Day – Avalon

Some songs that I sing come from the days when I was a part of my former church’s Christmas program. No matter how much time has passed, I still remember the words of those songs and what it felt like to be a part of a production involving hundreds of people, complete with an eleven-level Christmas tree for the choir to sing in, toy soldiers, puppets for the kids, beautiful costumes, flickering candles, and best of all, the story of Jesus coming to earth.

Those songs include:
• Mary, Did You Know?
• All is Well
• I Have Seen the Light
• The Hallelujah Chorus
• It is Finished
• Sleigh Ride

Christmas brings joy—the music, the lights, the parties and gatherings, and the Story. Our joy as believers stems from a Baby being born, a Promise coming true, and a Hope that arrived on that first Christmas. Because of Jesus, we can have joy all year long and we can experience His love for all eternity. So even though the Christmas music may have started before Thanksgiving this year, take a moment to really hear the words and let the joy sink in. When we know Jesus, the love and the joy are here to stay.

“You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11 NKJV).

Friday, December 16, 2011

Ducks in a Row

In honor of my great-grandmother’s 100th birthday, I’ve asked my mom to share a devotion that she wrote about her.

Guest Blogger: Beebe Kauffman

My grandfather was a very endearing man, but sometimes he (like many of us) could get into a huff. One bright day, my grandparents were working in the garden with their three small children. Something was said or done (no one remembered what it was), and my grandfather got miffed. So he stood up and said, “I’m leaving,” and started walking up the street away from their home.

A few moments later he looked back at the garden to see if his indignation had conveyed its proper effect, but the garden was empty. He was surprised to turn around and see my grandmother walking up the street behind him. Behind her, like little ducks in a single file row, came their three children. He asked Grandmother what she was doing, and she said, “If you’re leaving, I’m going with you.” The kids said the same thing. So they laughed, and everyone got hugs. They walked back down the hill together and continued their work in the garden. Surprise, warmth, and laughter made the world around Grandmother better that day (and every day). She trumped huffiness with love, a mindset that is captured in a poem that she knew by heart:
He drew a circle that shut me out—
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But Love and I had the wit to win.
We drew a circle that took him in.
- Edwin Markham

Ephesians 4:32 says, “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you” (NKJV).

Prayer: Father, help us to respond to those who are dearest to us from within a circle of love. Help us to understand and accommodate their daily ups and downs. Teach us to hold onto kindness and hold onto them at the same time. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Excelling, Not Just Surviving

“I just want to make it through this day.” Have you ever thought that? “I just want to survive this day emotionally…or physically…or spiritually.” The associate pastor of my former church preached one Sunday about surviving versus excelling. We may be doing well to get out of bed in the morning, get ready for work or school, and survive the day. But God has so much more for us. He doesn’t just want to help us make it through the day in one piece. He helps us to live each day in the fullness of His love, grace, strength, and victory. If circumstances are weighing us down, God gives us the grace we need to not just survive, but excel.

The following verses have helped me to excel in my walk with God, and not let personal fears, struggles, or circumstances get the best of me. They have also helped me to know what’s possible in our relationship with God and know what we can trust Him for—His ever-present help, His abundant grace, His never-ending love, and His certain victory.

• “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” Psalm 46:1 NKJV

• “Do not fear, nor be afraid; have I not told you from that time and declared it? You are My witnesses. Is there a God besides Me? Indeed there is no other Rock; I know not one.” Isaiah 44:8 NKJV

• “And the LORD, He is the One who goes before you. He will be with you, He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear nor be dismayed.” Deuteronomy 31:8 NKJV

• “God is my strength and power, and He makes my way perfect.” 2 Samuel 22:33 NKJV

• “And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.” 1 John 4:16 NKJV

• “Yet in all things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” Romans 8:37 NKJV

This Christmas we may be trying to just make it through the season, dealing with all the pressures and deadlines, keeping a busy schedule, or missing a loved one. But when we see whatever causes us to go into “survival mode” from God’s perspective, we can approach each day with a different attitude. We can begin our day with joy, knowing that He is with us and He can handle whatever comes our way. Because we have Him, we can thrive in hope. The fellowship we share with Him turns our “surviving mode” into an “excelling mode”—we’re ready to excel in the work He has given us to do, ready to bless the people we meet along the way, ready to enjoy every day with Him because we’re excited to see what He will do. God is with us every day of the year, and His love and His work in our lives enable us to excel and live the abundant life that He has for us.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Are Your Christmas Lights On?

I love Christmas lights, especially white twinkle lights. I wish that we could have Christmas lights up all year long. I love driving down the main street of my neighborhood and seeing the decorations on everyone’s houses. The household at the end of the street loves to fill their yard with all things Santa, even creating a lake of blue lights for Santa to go fishing in. The house in the next cove decks its porch with icicle lights and its yard with reindeer. The traditional, English-looking house puts soft-glowing candles in the windows. During the rest of the year, you don’t know who the “Christmas people” are—only when they turn their Christmas lights on.

Are your “lights” on? When people meet you, do they know that you have the love of God in your heart because they can see it shining through your life? We have a light to shine, a light that directs people to God, His love, and a relationship with Him. The good things that we do at Christmas, and all year long, can show people the goodness of God (Matthew 5:16). His joy can put a glow on our face that makes people wonder where that joy comes from, where our hope is found, and why we can keep going even when life is hard. This Christmas don’t let a hectic pace or busy schedule dim your light. See the people around you, and let them see the light of God in your life.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

God Named His Son

“And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6 NKJV).

One baby, many names—Jesus, Immanuel, King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Son of God, Son of Man. Jesus’ name represents who He is. In Isaiah 9:6, written about seven hundred years before Christ came to earth, God foretold what His Son would be like. As our King whose rule and peace will have no end, these are His names and what they mean for us today:

Wonderful – He is the One who satisfies us and keeps us in awe.
Counselor – He is the One who guides us and helps us.
Mighty God – He is the One who has perfect power.
Everlasting Father – He is the One who loves us perfectly.
Prince of Peace – He is the One who gives us calming strength, inner stability, and lasting security.

This Christmas remember who your King is, if you have believed in Jesus as your Savior. He is a Father and a Friend. He is a Savior and a Rescuer. He is our peace and satisfaction. May His names and who He is add a special joy to your Christmas season.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Vroom, Vroom

Have you ever been happily driving along, and a car pulls in front of you, and you know they should have waited? On top of that, they’re driving well below the speed limit, so you have to slow down.

That happened to me this week as I was driving through a nearby neighborhood. The speed limit was 40 mph, and as I approached an intersection, a car decided to turn right and pull in front of me. Their speed didn’t pick up after they turned, so I slowed down to match their 30 mph trek through the neighborhood.

After momentary frustration, I realized their slower pace was better than my faster one. Caution in a neighborhood is a good thing, especially if there are pedestrians around. The car also reminded me of what God may do at times. If we are headed down a path that’s not good for us, He may get in front of us to slow us down. He has ways of warning us that we’re speeding in a direction that will only hurt us. His warning signals include His word, our conscience, the Holy Spirit, other people, and His still small voice. Sometimes He may use a horn to get our attention. Traveling the right road at a good pace is always the best way to go, but it’s not always easy. If God gets my attention and slows me down, I want to keep pace with Him.