” Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” ~1 Thess. 5:18

Thanksgiving is the time of year when family and friends gather to share food and fellowship. But we all know that the best part of Thanksgiving is the leftovers where we get to turn one elaborate meal in many more enjoyable meals.

In 1 Thessalonians 5:18 Paul states, “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” If God’s will is for us to give thanks in all circumstances, perhaps these are the “spiritual leftovers” of Thanksgiving. God is calling us to turn a one day a year holiday into a daily practice of giving thanks.

What are you most thankful for?

In what ways can you express your gratitude today and every day?

“Take off the grave clothes and live!” ~ John 11: 44

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During this season of the year, we often focus on themes of new life and resurrection as we prepare for the celebration of our risen Lord.  One of the more interesting passages which explores these themes actually occurs a few months before Jesus’ resurrection. In John 11, Jesus is summoned to the tomb of Lazarus, who has been dead for 3 days. There he encounters the family who has been grieving, including Mary and Martha.  In a dramatic moment, Jesus calls Lazarus out from the grave saying, “Lazarus, come out!” After he performs the miracle of resurrecting him from the dead, Jesus then commands him to “take off the grave clothes” so that he might truly live.

Although Jesus has the power to set us free, we, like Lazarus, must take off our “grave clothes”– our past hurts, present pain and future worries. When we free ourselves from those things which hinder us, only then are we free to live the life God purposed for us.

Which grave clothes are you still wearing?

What steps will you take this week to remove these clothes so that you can truly live?

“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” ~Luke 2:14

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Photo credit: Gareth Harper

This time of year we hear seasonal songs playing on the radio, in grocery stores and in shopping malls. From carols to jingles, I wonder, what is it about songs that make the holidays so special?

Songs are used throughout Scripture to lead God’s people into worship during specific times of God’s provision. After the Exodus, Moses and the Israelites sang a song to the Lord. When David defeated Goliath, the people celebrated with tambourines and musical instruments. And at the announcement of an infant birth a host of angels burst into song singing, “Glory to God in the highest and peace on earth.”

We are blessed this Christmas season to continue the tradition of singing songs of praise to God. As we sing this season, let us do so with expectant hearts trusting that God always keeps His promises.

What song is your heart currently singing?

How will you thank God through song today?

On coming to the house…they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.” ~ Matthew 2:11

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Three wise men traveled afar to bring three specific gifts to the baby in the manger. These gifts were chosen based on who Jesus would become.  Gold, associated with Kings, pointed to Jesus as the King of Kings. Frankincense, an oil used in Jewish worship and anointing, demonstrated that Jesus is worthy of worship. And Myrrh, a perfume used in burial, foreshadowed Jesus’ suffering and death.
 Jesus calls us to bring ourselves to Him as a gift this Christmas. However, the experiences we’ve had often makes as feel as though we are unworthy to be given as a gift. Maybe we even feel like our life is like a 5 dollar white elephant gift. But perhaps this is what Jesus is planning. An exchange, where we bring something  broken or worthless in hopes of trading for something better?
Isaiah 61 says:
I will bestow on them a crown of beauty
    instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
    instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
    instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
    a planting of the Lord
    for the display of his splendor.
 
This Christmas, let us exchange what we have for what God is offering. In exchange for our sorrow, let us unwrap His gift of joy. In exchange for our pain, let us receive His comfort. And in exchange for our fear, let us open the gift of peace.
 
Which of God’s gifts do you need this Christmas?
 
How will you unwrap His gift today?
 

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” ~John 14:27

word_peace_in_sand_187143Peace Be With You. Shalom. As-Salaam-Alaykum. These greetings show that Peace is central to the life of faith. However, we live in a world where the threat of violence both locally and abroad has become the norm. Recent events have left us wondering: Is peace even possible?

In John 14:27, Jesus promises to give us His peace. The peace Jesus offers will ease our troubled hearts and calm our fears. However Jesus’ peace is different from the world’s, because He calls us to go beyond personal peace to become peacemakers. In other words, rather than just seeking peace for ourselves, He calls us to share the peace we find with all who seek hope. In light of the perpetual violence we see again and again, we must remember that peace is powerful. For it is His peace that has the power to not only change our lives, but also the world around us.

What peace has God given you?

How will you share this peace with others today?

 

 

 

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing!  Do you not perceive it? ” ~Isaiah 43:19

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On the first day of the new year, we greet one another saying, “Happy New Year!” This first day is “happy” because after what was a challenging 2015, the New Year is a time for renewal. We set goals, make new resolutions, and celebrate the hope of things to come.

Isaiah reminds us that God grants the grace to start anew saying, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Do you not perceive it?” Perceiving the “new thing” that God is doing is not simply forgetting the difficult things in our past, but rather it is allowing God to renew our hope, strength, and perspective. Ultimately, the “thing” God is making “new” this year is us.

Where do you need God’s renewal?

How will you allow Him to make you new this year?

 

“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.” ~Isaiah 9:2

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During the holidays, Christmas lights decorate our homes inside and out. We wrap our Christmas trees with lights and hang them from our roof. These lights switch on at night so they shine brightly and beautifully in the darkness.

The prophet Isaiah also spoke about light saying, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.”

Our small, strung together lights not only display the beauty of Christmas, but also as Isaiah teaches, help dispel the darkness. As we celebrate with lights this season, let us be mindful that shining our lights will illuminate the world around us.

How has God’s light dawned in your life?

Where is He calling you to shine your light today?