Wednesday, December 30, 2015

"To Be" in 2016


So many thoughts tumbling through my mind as 2015 comes to a close. Many difficult lessons have been learned and many decisions made. Loved ones have gone and new normals are slowly being adjusted to. Still, many lessons are yet to be learned and many more decisions have to be made, but as the door is closing on 2015, my prayer is that the next one is opening our hearts with a renewed, sincere, and fresh desire to be.

To be more like Christ in all we say and all we do. 
To decrease so He can increase in and through our lives. (John 3:30)

As each day, week, and month is planned, look for Christ in every moment and every detail. Seek to intentionally engage in things that allow for space to become more like Him.




Through using our gifts, we are pointing people to Jesus, leading them to love Him deeper, and to know Him more.



Tracing His faithfulness through our own personal stories, and the stories of others, helps us tell His story of redemption, love, mercy, grace, and forgiveness.



Studying His Word more often and deeper helps us grow in the knowledge of Jesus Christ and, applying His Scriptural principles in the crazy, daily stuff of life, helps others see Christ in us.


Won't you join me in 2016 with a deep and genuine desire to be more like Christ? Our world doesn't need anything more than more people being Christ to them.

Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. (Colossians 3:17 NKJV)

My Pleasure, and Happy New Year!
Melanie

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Spreading Christmas Cheer Throughout the Year


With Christmas Day 2015 a mere memory, and the New Year just around the corner, what is it we need to do to keep Christmas the whole year through?

In the days leading up to Christmas, we've tried hard to keep the reason for the season in perspective. I read with group of women a book learning more about the women of Christmas. My husband and I followed an Advent blog. I read the Christmas story in Luke 2 throughout the week, and early on, I hung the words, "Fear not," in my kitchen window to remind my family of the calm Christ brings into all the world.

Sitting here by the Christmas tree, I'm aware that Christ is definitely in it all!

He's in the gifts. His story is on the tree. The nativity is in the nook in the brick wall. He's in the lights. His radiant reflection sparkles in the glitter bows. He's in every moment and in every detail.


The Christ of Christmas filled in all the shadows prophesied of old and brought into focus the reality of the new.

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:11)

With the new though, also came a shadow. The shadow of a cross. The Messiah in the manger would become our Savior on the cross.

Jesus was born to die.

Jesus was born to redeem.

Jesus was born to resurrect.

Jesus was born to save.

This is what we carry into the days ahead. This is what life is about - His birth, life, death, burial, and resurrection. The gospel of Jesus Christ is good news for all people.

The message of Christmas is salvation through Jesus Christ.

Let's carry God's Gift, His Son, forward into 2016, spreading Christmas cheer all through the year!

My Pleasure,
Melanie




Monday, December 21, 2015

Sunday Scribbles: The Stars in the Sky...




The unknown author of two simple lines from the English carol, Away in a Manger, never knew how these words would come to life for me today.

The stars in the sky look down where he lay.
The little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay.

The words of this Christmas lullaby have grasped my heart anew in a much deeper and powerful way. The stars in the sky didn't just twinkle, they were divinely aligned in a miraculous way as to create the brilliant Star of Bethlehem. Specifically designed to point the people to the Messiah, the King of kings, on the exact day and at the exact time on the Jewish calendar that any new earthly king would have been presented to the Jewish people during the festival of trumpets.



Christmas is the announcement of the birth and presentation of THE King of kings and Lord of lords born on that holy night under the Star of wonder.

Did you know that the billions and billions of stars in the sky tell God's Story of Redemption from beginning to end?

Did you know that God knows every one of them by name and holds them perfectly in place so we can see His glory and know His story?

Before the beginning of time, and before our Creator God put the stars in place, He already had a magnificent plan in His unfathomable mind. Before man was formed, the heavens were declaring the glory of God. After man was formed, the heavens have continued to declare the glory of God.

Why were the stars and planets created? Let's look at Genesis 1:14.

Then God said, "Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night, and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years;

So what are the stars in the heavens proclaiming? Psalm 19:1-4 says this:

The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, And night unto night reveals knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their line has gone out through all the earth, And their words to the end of the world.

What is the glory of God?

The Scriptures tell us, The Son is the radiance of God's glory. (Hebrews 1:3)

Jesus Christ is the glory of God!

The dwelling place of the stars and galaxies beyond have been proclaiming God's glory, His Son, for all eternity. God created the stars for a specific reason. His story told with their light has underscored the brilliance of Jesus being called the Bright Morning Star for me than ever before. Their light reaches to the ends of the earth for all to watch the story of redemption unfold. AMAZING!

Each of the 12 constellations tells a portion of this story of Christ. During specific seasons, certain constellations can be seen revealing their part of the story. Since the foundation of the world, the starry story unfolds every year in the night sky.

Seth (Abraham's son) was one of the first to study the stars, and every astronomer since, no matter the country or language of the star gazer, on earth or from space, the stars have always told the same incredible story, pointing all people to the radiance of God's glory, His Son, Jesus.

I cannot explain the entire story in the stars to you in a short blog, but the goal of my Sunday Scribbles is to encourage you to go deeper through something that took me deeper. The stars in the sky were what God used today to catapult my heart into places I've never been before.

To see and hear a portion of the story, go to https://storyinthestars.com and watch the trailer.

God's story is magnificent. It's miraculous. It's glorious. It's brilliant!

And He wrote it for you and me!

My Pleasure,
Melanie


Thursday, December 17, 2015

It's the Week Before Christmas and So Much to Do



How are you approaching Christmas? With anticipation? With dread? The shopping, gift and card lists, wrapping, baking, parties, church events, school plays, etc... can make the season quite overwhelming, crowding out the joy.

So how do we stay focused on the real Gift of Christmas?

I love it all, but I've also learned through the years to keep it all in perspective. Jesus' birthday can be an elaborate celebration with many people by your side, or a simple laid back day of rejoicing with one or two around the tree. As long as the focus is the birth of Christ, being overwhelmed with the stuff of Christmas will be trumped by the Savior of Christmas.

Here are a few ideas to help us stay focused:



Every gift wrapped represents God's Gift wrapped in swaddling clothes - His Son.

And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. (Luke 2:6-7)


Every song resounds the Heavenly host announcing the Savior's birth.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace good will toward men." (Luke 2: 13-14)


Every light represents heaven and earth celebrating the long-awaited Savior, 
the Light of the world.

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, "I am the Light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." (John 8:12 NIV)


Every person in our path represents a soul who needs a Savior.

But the angel said to them, "Fear not: for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, 
which shall be to all people." (Luke 2:10)


Every cake baked represents the goodness of our great God.

Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him. (Psalm 34:8 NIV)

God gives us grace to experience His Gift in each and every moment all through the year.

Let's make the most of this sacred season by weaving His Story into everything we do, allowing Christmas to come alive with wonder, comfort and joy.

My Pleasure,
Melanie

Monday, December 7, 2015

Fear Not; Calm Down




Draped across my kitchen window this Christmas are what I believe to be the two most powerful words spoken after the seemingly empty 400 years of silence.  Fear not.

Each time the angel Gabriel appeared to announce the long-awaited birth of the Messiah, he spoke these words directly from the lips and presence of God Almighty.

Fear not.






Spoken directly to Zechariah, "Fear not, Zechariah." (Luke 1:13)
To Mary, "Fear not, Mary," (Luke 1:30) 
To Joseph. "Joseph, son of David, fear not." (Matthew 1:20)

And to us. "Fear not, ____________." (Insert your own name.)

Having a relationship with God through His Son, Jesus, brings those powerful words to life. We can truly fear not because of God's indescribable peace. We don't have to live in fear of literally anything, especially death and uncertain times. His peace goes beyond all human understanding and we cannot logically explain it. Until you receive it, by grace through faith, you'll never "get it."

What a Christmas gift! The gift of peace. A gift we are all offered and can receive.

To receive requires the simple act of believing, and then, by faith, saying, "Yes" to God and His gift of salvation.

The peace spoken about in the Scriptures is a peace that manifests in our spirit. It's God's gift of settling, of calming us down. It creates a new mind-set of complete trust. Peace comes from trusting the One who is in complete control. Peace is knowing without a doubt that God is working in the heavenly realms, hidden from the human eye, for our good and His glory.

The cover of the Daily News the day after the latest terror shootings in California said, "GOD IS NOT FIXING THIS", with references to several presidential candidate's Twitter messages who had called on all who will to pray for our nation.

This just furthers the fact that those without the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ many times respond to those who do with ridicule from hearts without hope, full of fear, and a lack of peace. Receiving God's greatest gift ever, salvation through His Son Jesus Christ, gives us the freedom to walk every day of this life in His presence.  And, in His presence, there is peace.

Sure, we may not see the whole picture as God does, circumstances can be grim and dangerous, but we can rest in the hope that He is coming again. He will reign with truth and grace, and perfect peace forever and ever. Amen.

My Pleasure,
Melanie


Saturday, December 5, 2015

Prepare Him Room - Hope for His Coming Again!


I love these hand painted ornaments of the Nativity because my husband painted them when he was a child. I reserve a special place on our den tree every year to display the simple wooden nativity.

Childhood memories play such an important role in how we view and celebrate the birth of our Savior. I'm sure many of your ornaments have stories to go along with them as well.

 But this Advent season I want us not to just dwell in the past. I want us to also anticipate the future.

The first Advent was the anticipation of our Messiah's birth. A people of hope awaiting His first arrival.

Since before the beginning of time, God had a plan. A supreme, sovereign plan to redeem the world. He promised a Savior, the One who would save the people from their sins (Matt. 1:21) and restore their relationship to God, the Father.

After the last prophecy spoken and 400 years of silence, the fullness of time (Gal. 4:4) had come. The sacred swelling of history into the climatic moment of the delivery of the Divine. The holy, glorious birth of the Messiah was near and had been announced through God's messenger, the angel Gabriel - first to Zachariah, then to Mary, and then to Joseph.

Prepare Him room! 

The time has come!

The second Advent is for those who await with great anticipation the Messiah's return! The Hope of all who believe! Once Jesus came to earth and started His ministry, He began sharing about His return. He challenged us to be alert, prepared, always anticipating His next and last arrival. The final fullness of time.

I'm semi keeping up with an Advent blog in which a timeless Christmas carol was explained. I was so glad to know that someone else has also thought about the words to this widely known hymn because they don't make sense with the just the first Advent.
The hymn? Joy to the World, the Lord Is Come. It's more specifically about the second Advent. It proclaims the return of Christ when He will rule a new heaven and a new earth as King of kings and Lord of Lords.

Yes, Christmas is a celebration of Christ's birth, but let's don't forget we are hoping and waiting for His return. God has not been silent since Jesus came. Even after His ascension into heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father, God continues to speak through His Son, the Holy Scriptures, and the Holy Spirit to help us grow up in our faith and prepare for His long-awaited return. He has called all of us to proclaim Him among the nations - to preach the gospel and make His story of hope and redemption known.

How can we prepare Him room this season? How will we proclaim His story, His good news?

We first have to clear the room to make room by confessing of our sins and turning away from what hinders our relationship with Christ. Accept His forgiveness. Having the room (our heart) clean is the first step.

The next step is maintenance -keep the room clean - always ready. The key is asking the Spirit to keep us alert, and to search our hearts of any actions or attitudes that are out of character with being a new creation in Christ Jesus. Sin dims our light in the world. It hinders our ability to tell God's Story and live it well. Cleaning it out keeps the Light shining bright.

As we celebrate the birthday of the King this Christmas, why not prepare Him room with excitement and anticipation in our hearts for His return. Let's be ready, waiting for the next and final swelling of time as He comes again to redeem all of the earth, bringing with Him those who have gone before us, saved by the blood of the Lamb, to rule a new heaven and new earth with truth and grace!

Joy to the world! The Lord is come
Let earth receive her King
Let every heart prepare Him room
And heaven and nature sing
And heaven and nature sing
And heaven, and heaven and nature sing.

Joy to the earth the Savior reigns
Let men their songs employ
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy, repeat the sounding joy
Repeat, repeat the sounding joy.

No more let sin and sorrow grow
Nor thorns infest the ground
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found, far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness
And wonders of His love, and wonders of His love
And wonders, wonders of His love.

(George Friedrich Handel, adapted by Isaac Watts)

Come, Lord Jesus! Come!

My Pleasure,
Melanie

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

In All Circumstances, With Thanksgiving, IN-Joy



More families than I can count are entering the holiday season inside of circumstances that are very difficult. Being thankful and joyful are the last things on their minds, and many don't even want to face the holidays because it's just too hard.

Our family has had an unprecedented year of grief. We've lost a "daughter" (best friend of our daughter's), another family friend (another of our daughter's best friend's dad), and our last parent/grandparent (Rick's mom), and the just this week, a very dear family friend.

Along with the grief, a close aunt has had a massive stroke, and recently, another has fallen and broken her hip.

Seems everywhere we look people are hurting.

Inside of difficult circumstances, it's hard to see what we deem as good because all we see is what we deem as bad. It's the natural human response to hardships. We give ourselves permission to determine what is good and what is bad. But with God, all things work together for our good and His glory.

All things. The good, the bad, and the ugly.

The ugly is the scene in Indiana where a 28 year old, pregnant pastor's wife is brutally raped and murdered while her 18 month old is upstairs asleep in his bed.

The ugly is the mass murders of innocent people in Paris, Mali, and worldwide by the evil black hearts of radical Islamic terrorists.

How do we give thanks and rejoice in the face of horrific times in the world and in our own personal worlds of heartache?

In a much used passage to encourage and challenge believers, Paul, who has endured more hardships than many of us will ever experience, shares the sacred ingredient of living a joy-full life.

I call it IN-Joy.

Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. (I Thessalonians 5: 16-18 NIV, emphasis mine)

We are not asked to give thanks for all circumstances, just to give thanks in all circumstances. The suffering is a result of sin in a fallen world.  Since we live in a fallen world, to experience true joy and peace in Christ Jesus, we must give thanks in all things.

So as you move into the holiday season, prepare Him room to bring you the true joy of the season by being grateful in all that comes your way. A grateful heart is the sacred key to IN-joying life on earth!

My Pleasure,
Melanie