Tuesday, January 31, 2017

The Book of Matthew: Morning Moments with God, Day 12

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Day 12: Nothing without Christ

Mathew 5: 7-13
 "Blessed are the merciful,
    for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
   for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
 for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.          

"Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy." (Matthew 5:7) I looked up the word 'merciful'- it means 'full of mercy.' So, I looked up mercy and it read, "compassion or forbearance 1) shown especially to an offender or to one subject to one's power." I have seen myself show mercy to others, but in all honesty I only had compassion on another because of the mercy God had shown me. Growing up in a home where mercy was not given or shown, each time the Lord has granted me mercy I was in complete awe. His compassion is endless. His mercy, eternal. For me, each time I have been shown mercy it's like a new revelation of who God is. Mercy to me is completely not of this world. It is only through God constantly extending it to me that I know how to give it away. So, what's my point? It feels like the Beatitudes should read: 'Blessed are those who have been shown mercy for they will be merciful.' I am nothing without Christ. Any mercy found in me to give away is what He put in my heart and nothing whatsoever to do with me. I need and yearn for mercy from God and will keep my heart ever open to Him to pour it over me so that I can pass it along to others.

"Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God." The definition of pure, from Websters Dictionary reads, "unmixed with an other matter: free from dust, dirt, or taint: spotless stainless." Just for the record, I am not pure in heart. I have been mixed and tainted by this world and until I am in heaven my heart will remain so. So, how do we get a pure heart because I want to see God. It is only through the blood of Jesus, His death on the cross for our sin that our impure heart, our stainfilled heart, that we can be made pure. Through accepting Jesus as your Lord and Savior, believing that He died on the cross for your sins and rose again, will we be made pure, washed clean and see God. 

"Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called sons of God." When I think of the Father I think of more love than I have ever known and that brings me peace. Jesus, Himself, is the Prince of Peace- (Isaiah 9:6) To be a peacemaker is like being a son, as Jesus is to the Father. But again, sadly, I am nothing without Jesus. I do not naturally bring peace to a situation. The Lord has done a great work in me in this area and I am better now at bringing peace, than lets say five or so years ago, but this again shows my complete dependence on God. I need Him. 

"Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness for theirs is the kingdom on heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you." I have been persecuted for many things- rudeness, selfishness, meanness, disobedience, but rarely for righteousness. The memory that comes quickly to my mind is the time that my own family told me to reject Christ or die. I would not. I was persecuted for it. But God was with me. He gave me the courage to stand. He stayed close to me- I was not alone. I could not have done it without His presence. Once again- I am nothing without Jesus. 

In all the Beatitudes I believe it is a call to remind us that we cannot do these amazing things without God. To be merciful, pure in heart, peacemakers and to stand persecution for righteousness is not humanly possibly without having a relationship with God. We just simply cannot do it. When we acknowledge that we need Jesus, ask Him into our heart and lives then, and only then can we hope to possess these amazing character traits and the most wonderful blessings!

Pray with me:
Dear Heavenly Father, I come before you today with a humble heart acknowledging that I am nothing without you. All I have that is good in me is from you. You created me with special gifts and talents. You showed me love and mercy and so I know how to give it to others, but left on my own there is nothing good in me. Lord, I love you. I need you. I ask you to come into my heart and be my Lord and Savior. Thank you for dying on the cross for my sins and making a way for me to know the Father. I give you my life and ask that you make me pure in heart, merciful and a peacemaker. I love you with all my heart. Amen.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Book of Matthew: Morning Moments with God, Day 11

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Day 11: The Beatitudes

Matthew 5: 3-6
He said:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
    for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
    for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
    for they will be filled.

I remember when my pastor gave a sermon on the Beatitudes, he began saying that the way the world sees things is very different than how the Lord sees things. I looked up synonyms for the word 'blessed' and found "favored, blissful, joyful, contented, lucky." So, in other words, the Scripture reads, 'Joyful are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.' My pastor said that the world would never think that you are blessed or could be joyful if you were poor in spirit, but with God we are. When you are poor in spirit or lacking in spirit and realize it, when you realize your need for a Savior you are blessed. When you receive Jesus as your Savior 'kingdom of heaven' is yours. 
"Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted." Here again, those who mourn over their own sin, those who realize what they have done and turn to God, they will be comforted. I remember my pastor saying, "Guilt isn't a bad thing." Guilt brings us to a place of mourning over what we have done and hopefully to a place on our knees in repentance. To mourn, to feel guilty is good. To repent is good. It then allows the Father to move in to bring us comfort. He removes the guilt through His forgiveness. 

"Blessed are the meek for they will inherit the earth." Merriam-Webster defines meek as, "enduring injury with patience and without resentment : mild."  The world would say to be meek is to be weak. I know that meekness was not revered in my family. You had to be strong, demanding, take-charge, basically bull-doze over anyone who got in your way. But God's way is so different. You can fight for what you believe, you can stand up for yourself in a meek manner. In calmness, and gentleness stand up for yourself. Trust that God is with you and allow His boldness to help you confront a situation or to stand up for what is right. 

"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled." I love this one so much! I love all the beatitudes, but this one makes it so real for today. I hunger and thirst after the things of God, and I will be filled! I will be satisfied in my desire to know the things of God and to know Him better. He will answer our cry to live a life of righteousness. 

Pray with me:
Father God, I pray that I would one who is poor in spirit, one who mourns over my sin, one who is meek and one who hungers and thirst for righteousness. Lord, keep me close to your heart. I humble myself to you and pray that I would hear your voice for my life and obey. Amen.

Friday, January 27, 2017

The Book of Matthew: Morning Moments with God, Day 10

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Day 10: Law of Grace Has COME!

Please read the Scripture for today.
Matthew 5: 1-2

"Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them, saying:" (Matthew 5:1-2) Yesterday we saw in Matthew 4: 25 that people came from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the Jordan. Word about Jesus was spreading and people were traveling to see Him, meet Him, and be healed by Him. Jesus had healed "EVERY" disease among these people. A crowd had formed- probably a huge crowd, noted from all the places people had traveled from. Jesus pulls away from the town, went up on a mountainside and sat down. It was time to teach. This teaching is called the "Sermon on the Mount" and it covers chapters five through seven in the Book of Matthew. Jesus had much to teach them. He was speaking to the Jewish people who knew the Law of Moses well and He needed to begin to prepare their hearts for what He meant when He said the "Kingdom of Heaven is at hand." Jesus coming to earth- God coming to earth, changed everything. He sat them down, and over the next couple of chapters we are going to see how He brings up the Law of Moses and changes it to the Law of Grace. The Law of Grace has come and He is gently preparing them for this huge change in their faith.

Are we ready for the Law of Grace to be written in our hearts? Are we ready to receive God's grace and mercy? Are we ready to give grace and mercy to others? Are we ready to let go of judgment and unforgiveness? Are we ready to live it?

Pray with me:
Jesus, my heart is ready! Open my heart, mind and eyes to your grace. Separate me from the law and pour on me the grace that sets me free! Prepare my heart for your teaching. I love you and want to live a life filled with your grace and a life that extends grace to those around me. Amen.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

The Book of Matthew:Morning Moments with God, Day 9

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Day 9: Teach, Preach and Heal Me

Please take time to read the verses for the day.
Matthew 4:23-25

 "Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people." (Matthew 4:23) In reading, "Jesus went throughout Galilee" I thought to myself, why not Nazareth? Why not begin your ministry where you were raised, in a town that is comfortable to you? I'm just noticing that in Matthew 4:13 it reads, "Leaving Nazareth..." After Jesus' time of testing and hearing John the Baptist was in jail, Jesus left Nazareth. He left His home. He left His mother and brothers and sisters. He left His home town, His step-father's business, and all He knew as a human growing up in Nazareth. Once again we find that there is nothing that Jesus asks us to do, that He, Himself has not done too. He left everything of comfort in obedience to the Father. God the Father was calling Him to preach in Galilee, "the area of Zebulun and Naphtali-to fulfill what was said through the prophet Isaiah:" (Matthew 4:14) and He obeyed. He said goodbye to all He knew and set off on His own to travel to Galilee.

Once He arrived in Galilee He did three things: 1) 'Teaching in their synagogues, 2) 'preaching the good news' and 3) 'healing every disease and sickness among the people.'

1) I love that Jesus went from synagogue to synagogue and taught. Can you imagine Jesus walking into your church or synagogue and teaching the Word of God? He inspired the writings of the Bible. He IS the Word! "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning." (John 1:1-2) "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us." (John 1:14) What an incredible teaching that must have been. Everything would have made sense. All the prophesy were made clear. All the stories coming together. Could you imagine a Bible study lesson with Jesus! How their minds must have been opened to new revelations. The Word became real and alive because the Word was among them! Jesus is with us today! We can experience the same revelations, the same excitement over the Word of God. Allow Him to speak to your heart about His Word. Invite Jesus to come into your church and teach the Word.

2) Preaching the Good News! I wonder what He preached. I wonder what He said. Come, and repent to me. No longer do you need to sacrifice an animal for the forgiveness of sins. I am here- GOD IN THE FLESH! Repent and be forgiven. That is not just good news- it's the best news! His words must have been freeing. His words filled with love and compassion. People were drawn to Him.

3) He healed every disease and sickness among the people! EVERY. Hang on that word for a little bit. Every. There was nothing too big for Him. Nothing too deadly. Nothing too small. Jesus healed every disease and sickness. Jesus healed cancer. Jesus healed tumors. Jesus healed headaches. Jesus healed depression. Jesus healed wounds. Jesus healed the lame, blind, deaf, mute, paralyzed. Jesus restored limbs and missing fingers and missing toes. Jesus healed tooth aches. Jesus healed limps, and muscle spasms. Jesus healed diabetes. "News about him spread all over Syria, and the people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed , those having seizures and the paralyzed, and he healed them." (Matthew 4:24) You name it, Jesus healed it. He healed everything and He is the same Jesus we love today. Nothing has changed. Jesus can heal all of our diseases and sicknesses today. I believe it.

The last verse of the day: "Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him." (Matthew 4:25) 'Large crowds.' I wonder how many. Jesus was in Galilee, but, "word about him spread all over Syria." (Matthew 4:24) which is North of Galilee and they traveled from Judea,' which is as far south as you can go! Look at a map, or find one in the back of your Bible. (I tried to post a picture of a map of the Holy Land in the time of Jesus, but it wouldn't let me post it). Word of Jesus spread all of the region and people traveled to see and meet Him. Back then traveling was no easy task. It could have taken these people days, or weeks to get to Jesus and then they had to travel back! Beloved, we don't have to travel outside our bedrooms to meet with Jesus. He is here. He is among us. He made a way for us to know Him through His death on the cross and resurrection life! He hears us and knows us. Come to Him. Travel to a quiet place and meet with Him. He is there waiting for you.

Pray with me:
Jesus, I come. I set all things aside. I am laying down my schedule, my to-do list, my worries, my fears, my sickness, my marriage, my children...I lay it all down to be in your presence. Come, Lord. Teach me, preach to me and heal me. I am your humble servant. I am clay in your hands. Mold me. Mold my day. Mold my life according to your glorious plan. I trust you Lord with my life. I am yours. I meet with you today to know you more. Touch my life and make me whole. I love you Jesus, my Lord and Savior. Amen.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The Book of Matthew: Morning Moments with God, Day 8

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Day 8: Come Follow Me

Please take time to read the verses for the day.
Matthew 4:18-22

"As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. "Come, follow me, Jesus said, "and I will make you fishers of men." At once they left their nets and followed him." (Matthew 4:18- 20) We know that from Matthew 4:17 Jesus had begun to preach repentance, but here He was not preaching, he was 'walking beside the Sea of Galilee' and he came upon Peter and Andrew. Was He alone or with a crowd? I don't know. Either way Peter and Andrew were working at their business, had their thoughts on their work and had just cast their net into the lake. Jesus came up to them and merely said, "Come, follow me and I will make you fishers of men." and they stopped what they were doing, left their business, and followed Jesus at once. "Come, follow me" aren't the most persuasive words I've ever heard. Jesus didn't lay out a plan in front of them and say, 'We'll travel and you'll see miracles and you'll even learn how to heal people too!" He didn't say anything, except, "Come." What an invitation. I don't think I would have understood what it meant to be a "fisher of men" and yet they left everything and followed Jesus. Maybe they had heard Him preach or maybe it was in their heart to hear more, but to leave everything to follow Jesus, that's huge. So, what does that say about Jesus? He is so wonderful, so beautiful, so God, that they didn't need to question Him, they just wanted more of Him. They wanted to be with Him, and be near Him.

"Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him."  (Matthew 4:21-22) Jesus continued to walk and saw James and John with their dad in their boat and called to them to follow Him and immediately, they not only left their boat, their business, but their dad too and followed Jesus. What Jesus called out to them is not written- but I'm thinking it had to be, "Come, follow me." Simple. Jesus is not complicated. He's open and honest, nothing hidden. "Come, follow me," that's the offer and that's what they did. As a child I would have jumped up and followed Jesus, but as an adult, I'd wonder. I'd question Him: 'How will I make a living? What is this all about? How long do you want me to follow you?' I'd have many questions- or so I think. That is why we are called to have childlike faith. To trust. I honestly don't think that anything could possibly compare to hearing the words, "Come." They are the words we hear as a father holds out his hands to his child. The child runs and grabs a hold of him. Why? Because their is a trust in the word Come- 'Come, I know what's best.' We can trust those words. 'Come, I have a good plan- trust me.' Jesus chose them and He said, "Come," how could you say, No?

Pray with me:
Jesus, I hear you calling my name, "Come, and follow me." Each day you are calling me to, "Come." Come and be close to me. Come and know my heart. Come and be refreshed. Come and be forgiven. Come and find hope. Come to me and find rest. Jesus, I answer your calling- I am here. Come and fill me with your Holy Spirit. I want more of you. Amen. 

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

The Book of Matthew: Morning Moments with God-Day 7

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       Day 7: Jesus Preaches Repentance!

       Matthew 4:12-17
Take time to read the four verses from your Bible so you can fully understand today's insight.

"When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he returned to Galilee." (Matthew 4:12) Our precious, desert preacher, John the Baptist, was in prison. I guess we knew it was coming, but it wasn't from the Pharisees or the Sadducees, like we would have thought. (We'll learn more about that later). John in prison. It must have broken Jesus' heart. I know it does mine. 

"Leaving Nazareth, he went and lived in Capernaum, which was by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali- to fulfill what was said through the prophet Isaiah: 
Land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali,
the way to the sea, along the Jordan,
Galilee of the Gentiles-
the people living in darkness have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death
a light has dawned."
(Matthew 4:13-16)

I love how everything Jesus does is in accordance with the Scriptures-Old Testament. I love how every part of His life was to fulfill the Lord's plan. From Mary, to Joseph, to John the Baptist and now where He is to go and preach. All the very details of Jesus' life was part of the plan God had to bring Him to the world that we could see that He is the One God, Messiah brought into this world to save us. The One who brought light to a lost world- "the people living in darkness have seen a great light;--a light has dawned." Jesus is our hope, our light! I had been living in darkness for eighteen years before I met Jesus. Then He came and His light enveloped my darkness. Hope came. Joy came. Love came.

"From that time on Jesus began to preach, "Repent for the kingdom of heaven is near." (Matthew 4:17)  I also love that Jesus was preaching the exact words of John the Baptist- "Repent! for the kingdom of heaven is near." I love it. I don't know if I can explain well enough the feeling in my heart right now. Jesus' cousin, John the Baptist, is in jail. Jesus knows that John has run the very, extremely, good race for God and his life is coming to an early end. The soldier has fallen. I see Jesus coming in, very human, very God, picking up John's 'flag' and going forth in the war. Jesus picks up where John left off - Repent for the kingdom of heaven is near. I love it. I love how much Jesus loves. I love His passion for people. I love His passion for us. 

Now when the words, "Repent for the kingdom of heaven is near" are said, they are even more true-the kingdom of God is 'here!' Jesus is here! Jesus has come! Jesus goes down the road that John the Baptist had opened in obedience to the Father. 

Pray with me:
Father, thank you for your most excellent plan! Thank you for all you did to bring Jesus to us and make Him known to us! Thank you for our salvation through Him. Thank you for all the saints you sent out to prepare our hearts for the Good News of Jesus. We receive Jesus into our hearts and pray a prayer of repentance. Lord, I repent of my sin _______, (confess whatever is in your heart) and ask you to forgive me, make me whole and turn my life around that I may walk with Jesus on the path you have for me. Amen. 

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Saving Money with My Kids!

I have found that there are so many different things for kids to put their money towards: Christmas presents or birthday presents for others, or to save for college or for that first car- the list can go on and on. 

Our children receive an allowance each week and have three different 'piggy banks' designated for their money 1) Tithe money for the church, 2) Savings (that we eventually deposit into their own personal bank account) and 3) Personal Spending. But what I have found over my sixteen years of being a mom, is that there are other things to save for that the children can be a part of like: Vacation, Home Improvements and Starting a Business! So, here they are our three new money jars! The kids, or anyone, can throw in change or part of their allowance to help save towards goals we have as a family. 

Here is our vacation money jar.
My husband and I save for the trip itself, but if we should want to 
go out for dinner, play putt-putt, or buy souvenirs, it always makes the 
vacation trip a bit tougher. Now, the kids can help make our vacation time less stressful and have more things to look forward to when we are away as a family.

As a home schooling family we have talked about starting our own business
 many times. BUT HOW? We need the money up front to begin.
Here is our "start up business" jar. 
The kids are excited about this and have already started donating towards it.
They know that as soon as we raise enough we can begin our business-
(it's not a lemonade stand).

Our "Home Improvements" jar.
I find that the kids will want a new shelf or organizing bins or a poster or a bulletin board to spruce up their rooms, but I don't have it in the budget to just go out and fix up their rooms. Sometimes things break =S Like right now the ceiling fan is broken in the boys room- that's a big expense, so it's not fixed yet. Here is a small way for the kids to help get things done. 

I know it probably sounds silly, but I am excited about our money
savings jars! I feel like its another opportunity to teach the kids that:
 a) money doesn't grow on trees and
 b) sometimes you just have to save and wait to get the things you need.
 I'm proud of my kids for being excited about this. I hope they learn much! 

The Book of Matthew: Morning Moments with God, Day 6

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Day 6: Jesus is Victor and We can be too!

Matthew 4: 1- 11
Please read the Scripture for the day in your own Bible.

"Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil." (Matthew 4:1) I fully remember that Jesus was tempted in the desert prior to beginning His ministry, but what I never saw before were the words, "...led by the Spirit." Jesus was led by the Spirit of God to be tempted by the devil! It was approved by God for the devil to tempt Jesus. I have to admit I was a bit surprised. I have always felt that God wouldn't test us. It sounded too harsh for God to do, but as I look back on my life, I'm beginning to see some testing that maybe God allowed and I'm okay with it. Back in 1991, as many of you know from reading my blog, my family became involved in a cult. We were Christians that fell. I was one of them. It was a brutal testing of my faith, but God never abandoned me. He brought me through and I know Him better because of it. I have had other tests through the years, some were to wake me up, to stop my whining, to have me grow up, or to get me to go deeper. All of the testing did the job- they brought me closer to Jesus. But why would Jesus need to be tempted or tested? Well, He is our high priest, I believe He endured it for us.

"After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry." (Matthew 4:2) I take part in a church-wide fast twice a year. I usually give up sugar for a week. Once I did a true Daniel Fast for a week and I was a mess. Oh, I was a mess just giving up sugar too! I was tired, irritable, and just plain miserable and that was a ONE week fast. Jesus fasted for forty days and forty nights! and so yes, I would agree, "...he was hungry."

"The tempter came to him and said, "If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread. Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone, but on very word that comes from the mouth of God." (Matthew 4:4) Oh, how my blood boils when I read the words, "IF you are the Son of God..." (Emphasis mine). If? IF? Satan, the devil, knows that Jesus is the Son of God- he had been in heaven with Jesus. If that had been me, I would have lost it. If I had been on a fast for forty days and nights and Satan said, "IF" to me, I would have put him in his place. (And if you are now wondering if my big mouth has gotten me in trouble- you would be right). But not Jesus. He is perfect. He knows what He is dealing with and is not rattled, He knows who He is and does not have to defend Himself. Jesus simply quotes Scripture to Satan and poof! Satan moved to the next temptation.

"Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. If you are the Son of God, he said, "throw yourself down. For it is written: "'He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.'" Jesus answered him, "It is also written: 'Do not put the Lord you God to the test.'"  Satan lost the first round of the fight, so in his second attempt to tempt Jesus to sin, Satan uses Scriptures. Satan knows Scripture AND he knows who Jesus is- don't be fouled. Satan, many times acts like a gnat or a mosquito, buzzing around our head, trying to annoy us, and distract us. Here Jesus is, hungry, probably physically weak, and He's got Satan flying around Him. Jesus simply quotes Scripture, and once again, poof! Satan moves on to the next temptation.

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. "All this I will give you, he said, if you will bow down and worship me." Jesus said to him, "Away from me, Satan! For it is written: 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only."Then the devil left him and angels came and attended him." Jesus fought for us in that desert. He fought to win that battle with Satan. He fought to minister on earth for three years, die on the cross, so He could rise again and beat death- for all of us! He won that battle for us! That whole time He was being tempted His eyes were on His prize- you! You are God's delight. You are worth fighting for. You are worth fasting for. You are worth dying on the cross for.. Jesus won for you!

Pray with me.
Jesus, thank you. Thank you for being in submission to the Father and allowing yourself to be tested by Satan. Help me to humble myself in all ways to the Father too. Thank you for winning! Thank you too for showing us how to win against Satan. Help me to be in your Word each day so that it will get deep down inside my heart that I might quote Scripture to Satan as he tempts me into sin. Lord, I love you and want to be just like you.  Amen.

Friday, January 20, 2017

The Book of Matthew: Morning Moments with God, Day 5

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Day 5: Jesus is  so Gentle

Matthew 3:13-17
Take time to read the four verses from your Bible so you can fully understand today's insight.

"Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. But John tried to deter him, saying, "I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?" I love this moment when John meets up with Jesus. The last time John and Jesus met, according to Scripture, John lept for joy inside Elizabeth's womb as Jesus was inside Mary's womb. John recognized the Son of God as an unborn baby. Now thirty years later John sees Jesus and knows Him. It's his cousin, but he knows that Jesus is the Messiah, come to save the world. No one on earth knew. No one told him. Jesus hadn't performed any miracles yet. There wasn't a buzz around town that there is some guy healing the sick. Jesus shows up and John knows. I'm in awe with John's relationship with the Father and Holy Spirit. His heart, mind, eyes, and ears were on God. Lord, let me see you. Let me know your presence. My heart wants more of you like John did.

Okay, so John knew Him and yet questioned Him! John knows that standing before him is God made flesh, Son of God, Jesus and yet when asked to be baptized John's like, 'I'm sorry you got the memo wrong. You're God, I'm just the messenger. YOU are suppose to baptize ME.' I can see John leaning in close, and almost whispering it in Jesus' ear, from the side of his mouth. And with this, I see myself. How many times have I believed the Lord said or spoke something to me and yet I look up to heaven and question Him. It comforts me that even the greatest disciple of Jesus questioned Him. But Jesus, wonderful, merciful, kind, amazing, Jesus, doesn't rebuke him. He doesn't say, 'John! I know who I am! Now obey me!' He gently states, "Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness." (Matthew 3: 15) Basically saying, "John I know, but this is actually what God the Father told me to do-so let's just go ahead and do this." John obeys. Jesus is so gentle and to be honest, that comforts my heart. I grew up in a hostile home. Whenever I asked too many questions, the yelling began. I can ask God questions and know that He is gentle.

Last verse of the morning: "As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased." (Matthew 3:16-17) If you have ever doubted, ever wondered, if Jesus is truly our Savior, doubt no more. I can see it plainly. For all those that were there in the river, or on the shores watching, they heard, they saw, they knew. God had really come. If they had missed his birth thirty years before, they knew now. What peace. What joy. GOD is here. And we can have that same joy in us today- God is here. HE is alive! HE is our Savior come into the world, to set us free from sin and death. Be at rest. God is on the throne!

Pray with me:
God, thank you for loving me. Thank you for allowing me to be me - to question you, to doubt, to worry and still you love me. Thank you for being so gentle. Jesus, I confess you are the Son of God, my Savior. I give you my life anew. May I know you as John did. Amen.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

The Book of Matthew: Morning Moments with God, Day 4

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Day 4: Obedience

Matthew 3: 1-12

"In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the Desert of Judea and saying , "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near."

Please read Matthew 3:1-12 to understand the full 'Morning Insights' for the day =)

John the Baptist has always amazed me. From the announcement, from an angel, of his coming birth, to his death. He was a man who, in the womb, received the Holy Spirit and lived his life following Holy Spirit in full obedience.

Things he did that show his full obedience and death to self:

1. In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the Desert of Judea..." Preaching in the desert? If he had his own choice would he have chosen the desert? I've never been to a desert, the best I've done is visited a beach on a really hot day and left after a few hours. But John stood out there, in the heat, and preached. Okay, so that doesn't really talk of his obedience because maybe he liked the desert, but the fact that there is a prophesy about him in the desert assures me that he was living in obedience in order to fulfill the prophesy, "A voice of one calling in the desert, 'Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him." (Matthew 3:3, Isaiah 40:3)

2. "John's clothes were made of camel's hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey." (Matthew 3:4) I'm sorry, there is no way that he was loving locusts for breakfast, lunch and dinner on his own accord. He grew up with a mom and a dad and traditions with holidays and good food and clothes! He knew what good food was and I'm sure, like the rest of us, he loved it. Wearing those clothes and eating that food was in obedience to his calling. God called him to the desert- he obeyed. Life in the dessert requires those clothes and that food- he accepted it. Obedience has a price- dying to the things we find comfort in, dying to self.

3. "People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. Confessing their sins, They were baptized by him in the Jordan River." (Matthew 3: 5-6)  First, I am astonished at how many people came out to the desert- "from Jerusalem, all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan." That's alot of people. Was he trained for this? Did he go to college or seminary and get a degree in public speaking or go to Bible college? Probably not. I'm sure his father, Zechariah, taught him the Word of God, but to preach each day to a crowd! and not to mention how intimidating that would be to preach to a large crowd. I know I've said to God, "God, I can't share the Gospel- I don't know enough Scriptures. What will I say? I can't answer all their questions." That's me trusting in me- NOT trusting God and what He has called me to do. God called John. John obeyed. Could we answer the call of God on our lives with the same obedience?

4. "But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducee's coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not think you can say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father..' I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire." If that had been me, and I saw the Pharisees and Sadducee's coming, fear would have gripped my heart. I have struggled for years with the fear of authority- fear of man. I would have been silent. I would have stood there waiting to see what they wanted. I would have been afraid that they were coming to either shut my 'church' down or arrest me. BUT John, being so convicted in his calling that came from God and convicted in what he was called to preach was the Truth, had no fear of man. Fear of God pulsed through his veins. The reverence for God motivated him. The love of the Father and doing His good work kept him at peace. So, not only was he NOT afraid, he was bold! He calls out those pious, religious men as being a 'brood of vipers!' He sees right through them because of Holy Spirit being in him. He spoke the truth without any sugar coating and all those people who John had been preaching to, heard it clear as day. I'm sure it was an eye-opening day for the common people that were there. The common sinners probably thought that the priests had a free ticket into heaven, but John set the record straight that day- REPENT! and you shall be saved!

5. "I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in this hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire." (Matthew 3:11-12) I grew up in New York City in a largely Jewish community. I had many Jewish friends that went to synagogue and Hebrew school. In all my years of living side by side with my Jewish friends and babysitting for my neighbors, I never heard one of them say, "I was baptized." I don't think baptism is a Jewish thing, but there he was, standing in the desert, baptizing people. He was radically different from any of the priests from the Temple. I'm sure someone must have asked him, "On whose authority do you baptize these people?" Whether they asked or not, whether they thought it or not, it made no difference to John. God told him to baptize people and get them ready for the Messiah, Jesus, who was coming, and so he did.

It was like John had been to heaven, talked with God, and came back down to earth. He lived like there was only One person to live for- God. He lived like God was GOD.

Pray this prayer with me:

Father, pour over on me your Holy Spirit. Give me your boldness. Break the fear of man. Set me free to go forth and declare the Good News with no shame so that all people can know you and be saved! You have come and according to John, you "will baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire." Baptize me afresh with your Spirit and give me your fire to preach, teach, and bring the lost to repentance. Amen.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The Book of Matthew: Morning Moments with God, Day 3

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Day 3: God's Plan Will Not be Thwarted

Matthew 2: 13- 23
"...an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream'...Get up," he said, "take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him." (Matthew 2:13)

"After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, "Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child's life are dead." (Matthew 2 19- 20)

"So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream he withdrew to the district of Galilee, and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets: "He will be called a Nazarene."

Take the time now to open up your very own Bible and read the full Scripture noted above- it will help understand today's insight better.

In today's reading we find that Joseph wasn't just given one dream from the Lord, but three! Joseph was given a total of four dreams from God in his lifetime- 1) A dream to marry Mary, 2) a dream to flee to Egypt, 3) a dream to tell him all is safe and to head to Israel, and 4) a dream to settle in Nazareth. Joseph obeyed it all. But what I noticed this morning is the verse, "But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod he was afraid to go there."

Who was afraid? 
 Joseph was afraid.
He had, had three dreams from God already in his lifetime. They were all proven to be true and yet with this fourth dream he was afraid to obey it. The third dream clearly wasn't enough for Joseph to jump up and obey. So what did God do? He gave him another dream..."Having been warned in a dream he withdrew to the district of Galilee, and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth." (vs.23)

God is working with mere imperfect humans. Sometimes we become too afraid to obey. We see the 'Archelaus' in our lives and we fret. We withdraw. We pull back. We think, "God, I just can't do this. God, I don't think you see what I see. I see 'Archelaus' and he's worse than anything I've had to face. I just can't go forward." We get too afraid to obey God. The God who sees EVERYTHING and knows EVERYTHING- we fail to trust Him.

So, what did God do for Joseph? He gave Joseph another dream. He told Joseph to settle in Nazareth. Whew! Joseph was good with that and obeyed. They were all safe. Done! But what struck me was Joseph didn't mess up God's plan. God knew Joseph was going to be too afraid to obey. God knew it all along and wasn't surprised by it. How do I know? "So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets: "He will be called a Nazarene." Hundreds of years before Joseph was ever born, prophets spoke the words of God, wrote it down, that declared the Messiah, Jesus, was to be called a Nazarene.

God knows what He is working with. He sees and knows it all and in some way He can orchestrate everything and make it all come out perfect. So, you ask, "Well, why isn't my life perfect then?" Well, I'll ask you something in return - Do you obey God perfectly? Do you wait on Him in your fears, as Joseph did, before making decisions and forging ahead? Probably not. I know, -I don't obey perfectly either. So, when we don't obey, and we stay on our own path, and continue to not listen to God, how can we expect to see His perfect plan for our lives show up? We can't. Are we hopeless? NO. NEVER. God is ever forgiving. We can humble ourselves and repent. We can ask Him to bring us back onto His path and He WILL do it. We are never lost to God- ever! He is always searching for ways to speak to us, and bring us back to His heart and His perfect plan for our lives. Why? Because He loves us that much!

Go forth today knowing that the God of the universe, the God who holds the stars in their place, the God who knows the beginning and the end LOVES YOU and He has a perfect plan for your life. Be patient. Wait to hear His voice. Obey Him. Blessings on a great day of freedom!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

My Testimony is on YouTube!

My testimony is on YouTube! 

It's how I was ready to give up on God, but He wasn't going to let go of me!

Check it out!

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The Book of Matthew: Morning Moments with God, Day 2

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Day 2: Matthew 2: 1-12 - Meet the KING 
"After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, "Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him."

1) I never noticed this before- "After Jesus was born..." Jesus had been born! The shepherds have had sightings from angels and had gone out to the town as the first missionaries, "Then they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about his child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them." (Luke 2:17) Mary and Joseph were in the town and Jesus was born. The star was in the sky. It was so bright that these men, the Magi, had seen it as far away as 'in the east' and followed it. How did Herod NOT see it? How did he not know that all this was happening? It had all happened right under his nose and he still hadn't heard about Jesus' birth. The Lord had to bring the Magi all the way from the east to tell him. God wanted Herod to know that His Son was born. The, "King of the Jews" was here. With knowing how evil Herod was, having killed his own wife, three sons, mother-in-law, brother-in-law, uncle and many others, WHY would God bring the Magi to Herod's front door step and tell him about Jesus? God, being God, knew that Herod would try and murder the baby Jesus, so why tell him? One word: Love. God loves us all and wants to give each of an opportunity to receive Jesus-even the most horrid of men. "The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance." (2 Peter 3:9) God even wanted Herod to be saved. God had hope for even an evil man such as Herod. Our God is glorious! He doesn't give up on us! He doesn't loose hope! He is ever trying to bring us to His heart. If you do not see God in your life, please know- He is there. He is bigger than the star in the sky. Bigger than a hundred angels singing in the heavens! He's there- only look for him, as the Magi did, and you will find Him.

2) "We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him." (vs 2) "On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshipped him." (vs.11)

They saw his star in the east -I have no idea how they knew it was his star, but it was enough for them to travel miles upon miles, by camel-don't forget, to meet Jesus and worship him.  Worship Him. I think the Magi knew something big was happening on earth, enough for them to pack up and travel- something very big, but I don't think they really knew what they were in for. I  do think they really did believe a king was coming and they would worship him, but worship a king, small 'k.' I don't think they really understood it until they saw His precious face. As soon as they came in, "they bowed down and worshipped him." They were in the presence of JESUS! The KING of Kings and the LORD of Lords! The one we will meet in heaven, in all His glory! They were in the presence of Jesus! I think meeting Him was more than they realized. More than they hoped for. And is that not like many of us, isn't it? We know about Jesus and all He has done. We see Christmas lights and know it's His birthday. We see Easter baskets and remember His death and resurrection, but until we take the time, to travel up to our rooms, open the Word, and meet Him do we realize Who He is- Our KING. Our wonderful, loving, patient, forgiving, gracious, joyful, kind, KING. Meet with HIm and know Him- He is more than you think He is!

Monday, January 16, 2017

The Book of Matthew: Morning Moments with God, Day 1

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Day 1--To Dream HIS Dream--Matthew 1: 20-25

"But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins. All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son and they will call him Immanuel-which means, "God with us."
      When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus."

There are two parts of this Scripture that spoke to me: 

1. After I read, "...the Lord appeared to him in a dream..." I thought, "Lord, would you talk to me in a dream? Would you tell me exactly what I don't know and show me what I need to see before I go and do something stupid?" How nice would that be! Joseph was going to divorce Mary, but with a dream from the Lord, showing him the truth about Mary, he married her. Having a dream from God showed him quickly what he needed to do. I wish life could be that easy.

A few years ago I was so hurt by a friend, that, sadly, I just gave up. I had, had it. I remember feeling, "That was the last straw! I'm done with being hurt and misunderstood!" I gave up meeting with the Lord in the morning. I began over-eating. I simply gave up. I couldn't take the hurt any more. I stopped doing everything that brought me joy -which were: Reading the Word of God, working out, getting together with friends. I was so hurt that I lost hope.

How I wish an angel had appeared to me in a dream and said, "It'll be okay. Here's why this hurts so bad. Allow the Lord to touch and heal the pain." Life would have been so much easier and so much better and I wouldn't have given up!

The other part of this Scripture that I find so amazing is Joseph didn't question his dream. "He woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife." He didn't say, "Wow, that was some dream! How weird is that!" and ignore it. He didn't say to God, "Could you give me one more dream, so I know it's from you?" He believed it was the Lord and quickly obeyed.- I have to say, I'm impressed.

I wonder if the Lord had shown up in my dream if I would have been too critical to believe and obey. It certainly didn't help matters that I had stopped meeting with Him.

The Lord knew Joseph couldn't divorce Mary. Joseph needed to hear from Him as soon as possible and it had to be clear. I know I don't need that- I'd like a dream from God, but I don't need one. Through the Holy Spirit, God speaks to me. Joseph didn't have the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit came after Jesus ascended up into heaven. Holy Spirit was the promise from Jesus of the One He would send as 'The Comforter.'

Holy Spirit does speak to me and sometimes I'm listening and sometimes I'm not. But God is always wanting to talk with us and guide us. It's a matter of quieting ourselves, almost like we were sleeping, and listen for Him. Yes, it would be easy if God always showed us which way to go, but then it doesn't allow for the love to flourish in the relationship. I needed to pull away, fall, and look for God again. I needed to see that HE is my HOPE and now my faith is stronger for it.

Lord, forgive me for running away from you, when I should have run to you. Forgive me for closing up my life and barricading myself away from you. You are so completely amazing! You stayed with me through all that crying and pain and spoke to me and set me free. It wasn't in a dream, but you met with me and set me free daily. Help me to be open to hearing your voice in a dream or in the day time and help me to quickly obey. I love you with my whole heart!

For more on, "The Book of Matthew: Daily Insights," go to 'God Stories' and scroll allll the way down! There you will find each days readings from the Book of Matthew. You can use it as your daily devotion time with God.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

What If?

Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?” (Mark 16:2-3)

Many times, as we are walking down the road of life, headed toward what we believe God has called us to, we stop and think, "WHAT IF? What if this is too hard for me? What if I can't do it? What if I'm wrong and this whole plan wasn't God's idea at all?" Like many of us, Mary knew God was calling her to complete a job. Her task was to embalm Jesus' body after His death, but as she was walking to her destination she stopped and asked, "What if we can't roll the stone away from the tomb to take care of Jesus' body?" What if?

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I know that I have been found in this situation more than once. I remember, a few years back, truly believing God wanted me to attend a certain Christian group. In the beginning everything was so wonderful. I felt myself maturing and growing faster than I could even keep up. I had felt for years as if I had been pushed down inside a box, with the lid shut over me. But as soon as I started attending this group, the cover was removed and I began to grow! I was excited and happy all the time. THEN, (there seems to always be a 'then' in my stories), I was devastatingly hurt by someone in the group. I wanted to shrivel back down into my box, or at least run and leave, but the Lord said, "No. You need to stay." I felt crushed. "How can I heal in the very group that has broken my heart?" It seemed absolutely impossible. So, I did the only thing any wife would do - I cried on my husband's shoulder and told him I needed to leave. My husband's response was, "No. I really believe God is asking us to stay." 

"What now? How can I go forward? How can I heal in the very place I was hurt? HOW???" I stood on that path for a long time asking God over and over again, "How?" I feared moving forward. I feared what lay ahead. All I could imagine was more hurt. I kept asking myself, "What if?"

"What if I continue to give my heart and they hurt me again?" I began walking very slowly, but all the time I was frightened... Frightened that I was alone... Frightened that at the end of the road there would be even more disastrous hurt than where I just came from. I took baby steps for over a year as I sought freedom from hurt and fear.

 “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?” 
(Mark 16:3)

I should have known the answer. And I guess I did, but it seemed an impossible task even for God to heal my heart, help me forgive and get back into relationship again. Then it happened for me just as it did for Mary.
4 But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. (Mark 16:4)

God did it! For Mary, she questioned, "Who will roll away the stone?" She probably worried about it. She probably prayed that God would send someone to help her. BUT the important thing was she didn't stop walking - she didn't give up and go home. She didn't say, "Oh brother, forget this! I'm going home. How can He expect me to roll away the stone?" She knew God had asked her to take care of the body of Jesus and so she was not deterred. Then Mary looked up from the road. She looked up from her worries and found that the stone had already been rolled away. God literally took care of it!

With all my worrying and praying (not sure how that works) God had done it. For me, I questioned, "Who will heal my heart? Who will protect my heart from the possibility of it being hurt again?" Then it happened. In the midst of my tears God spoke to my heart. He said, "I will protect your heart. Trust Me."

It was an intense revelation of faith. "Trust Me." I dried my tears. Hope swelled in my heart. I can trust the Living God. I don't need to worry. I can forgive them because God is protecting my heart. The only reason I was holding onto the hurt was for fear that I would forget and not have my guard up. But with surrendering my pain and fear to God, He was now in control and protector of my heart.

If God is asking us to forge ahead then He will be there. He will prepare the way. Not only will He prepare the way, He will go ahead of us down the road and make sure everything is ready for us as we walk in obedience to Him. He will not abandon us even if we question, "God, what if?" God wants a relationship with us. He wants us to see that He will take care of us and protect us if we let Him. "Trust Him," is the lesson I have had to learn many times. There is such a great freedom when we lay down our lives and trust the One and Only God of the universe - Jesus Christ. 

Friday, January 6, 2017

God, Are You There?

In my twenty-eight years of talking with God, I've never had a reason to ask Him, "Are you there?" until this past year erupted. I had been going along in life just fine. I would pray, talk with God, see answers to prayers and keep going, but this year I happened to look over my shoulder and notice that to some of my heart-to-heart prayers there was no response and in some cases it felt like God wasn't even acknowledging that I prayed at all. Before I knew it I began to see one unanswered prayer after another flying up in my face until I finally cried out, "God, are you there?"

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I know in my heart He is, but I have shed a lake of tears as I have hoped, watched, and waited in childlike expectation on Christmas morning for my prayers to be heard, to find only that as the sands of time dropped one by one, I was left with more questions than answers.

I was at a crossroads in my walk. Do I continue to pray for the dreams in my heart or do I just abandon them on the side of the road like a flat tire, or a busted balloon? Then I felt like the Lord revealed to me a perfect, Biblical imagery of a girl who may have cried out, "God, are you there?" too.

An angel appeared to Mary and told her that she was chosen for the most wonderful calling.
Mary said, "Yes."
An angel appeared to Joseph in a dream and told him that it was good for him to marry, Mary.
Joseph said, "Yes."
They were excited. They were on an incredible journey together, until everything started to go wrong.

They received the news, by Roman decree, that they had to travel to Bethlehem in her latent stage of pregnancy. 
"Where is God? Did we hear Him right? Were we wrong? God, this was not the plan. I was supposed to have my baby at home, with my mother near by and a midwife. God, where are you? God, are you there?" 

They arrive in Bethlehem and there was no room for them in the inn.
"LORD! How can this be? I am carrying your Son. We need a bed to rest. We need a safe, clean place to deliver the baby. God, where are you?"

They are offered a stable.
"God, I'm so confused. Did we not hear you? I thought we were in your plan. How can I deliver a baby in a stable? It smells- I'm going to throw up! It's so filthy. I'm scared. Lord, please let me know that this is your plan. I feel so lost! I feel so confused. God, where are you?" 

Jesus is born. 
He is perfect.
His mere presence brings peace.

Then, strangers walk in. Dirty shepherds. They come in quietly. They take off their head coverings and bow down. Then they look at each other with lights in their eyes. Excitement swells in their hearts. They introduce themselves. Their words interrupt each other as they begin to pour out their sighting of angels! And singing! And Good News!

Mary looks to heaven and smiles as tears run down her cheek-
"You were here all along. You knew. You heard."
She leans against the wooden stable.
A sigh of relief.
Rest comes to her mind, and body.

God, you are here. YOU ARE Immanuel, God with us. You DO hear us. You DO see our tears. You do have a plan and we will see it come to fruition.

Lord, Forgive me for doubting, for loosing hope. Help my unbelief. I love you and always will.