Encourage Each Other

encourage each other

I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong – that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.” Romans 1:11–12

Life is challenging! Need I say more? It seems as if each day has new struggles of its own, and they begin to stack up, one upon the other, like unstable building blocks. Until it comes to the point, we are just holding our breath, waiting for those blocks to come tumbling down around our heads.

Why can’t I do more? Why did I lose my temper? Do my efforts even make a difference? Paul the writer of the book of Romans, wants to impart the believers in Rome with a spiritual gift, and that gift that makes them strong, is simply sharing their faith with each other.

I recently received an email from a dear friend, she shared her busy and beautiful life with me, but I could sense the building blocks were beginning to sway. So, I shared my faith with her. I encouraged her to let go of her expectations and to rejoice in the Lord that loves us, right where we are. Her efforts did make a difference. We all need to let go of the “should have” and “what if’s” and embrace the forgiveness and love of Christ.

She in turn, encouraged me through her faith.

When will we come to terms with the truth? God did not make us to stand alone, He made us to be in community with each other. Hence, all believers are together called the body of Christ. Step back, let go; allow those building blocks to fall. We don’t have to live the perfect life, when we know we are perfectly forgiven. Encourage each other. We all need to hear it from time to time.

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for the encouragement we receive from you every day in your Word. Thank you for your constant love and forgiveness of us. Help us in turn to encourage and love others. In Jesus’ name. Amen

For further reading: Romans 1

The Fountain of Living Water

Cistern

“My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water,
and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.   Jeremiah 2:13

Jeremiah was speaking to the people of Judah before the siege of Jerusalem by the Babylonians that happened in 597 BC. He was urging them to turn back to the Lord, to stop going to false gods or depend on their own abilities. He compared these false gods to broken cisterns that could not hold water.

In Bible times people would carve out large holding tanks for water from solid rock. The summer months were hot and dry with no rain, so they needed a way to store water through the dry season. These cisterns would collect the winter rains, holding large amounts of water that would be used throughout the dry months. Water would be hoisted up with ropes and a bucket.

The people made a lime plaster that covered the surface of the bed rock to protect the water from leaking out. However, after many years these cisterns would develop a crack in the plaster and the water would escape. A broken cistern was useless for holding water.   

The people were trying to sustain themselves with cisterns of their own making. They were working so hard to pull up old, stale water, that they had to retrieve over and over again. And the broken cisterns promised water but gave them only a place for tombs and prisons. A place of bondage and death.

God was telling the people through Jeremiah that those false gods they worshiped could give them nothing but empty promises and heavy burdens. In comparison to the Lord, who supplied them with a fountain of living water: fresh, abundant, and overflowing. His water revives us, nurtures us and fills our soul with what we truly need.

Prayer: Please forgive us Lord for going to broken, empty cisterns, seeking fulfillment. There is nothing there. They leave us discouraged and empty. They are truly just bondage for us. Set us free Jesus. Help us reach for you, the Living Water, help us drink deeply from your endless supply of fulfillment. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Be Careful Little Eyes What You See

“No one lights a lamp, then hides it in a drawer. It’s put on a lamp stand so those entering the room have light to see where they’re going.

Your eye is a lamp, lighting up your whole body. If you live wide-eyed in wonder and belief, your body fills up with light. If you live squinty-eyed in greed and distrust, your body is a dank cellar.

Keep your eyes open, your lamp burning, so you don’t get musty and murky. Keep your life as well-lighted as your best-lighted room.”

Luke 11:33-36 (MSG)

Human behavior has always been an interest of mine. I’m sure that is a contributing factor of why I ended up going to school and receiving a Masters in Counseling Psychology. I enjoy observing and assessing difficult behaviors and helping people overcome their challenges. I admit that I also enjoy watching documentaries as a way to analyze behavior. Unfortunately, I watched one last weekend on a very evil man, that appeared to be charming to many, yet horrible to his victims.

I share this with you because what I watched affected me in so many negative ways. My eyes took in horrific sights that allowed the evil one to stir into me discouragement and fear, which began my week in murky, dark, dank places. Fear and discouragement seeped downwardly into all areas of my life. I was so sad, felt helpless and was in an unhealthy state of mind.

Thankfully, I reached out to loved ones and asked for prayer, began listening to worship songs, read my Bible and felt the darkness lifted and His light began to brightly shine! Oh be careful little eyes what you see! Keep wide-eyed in wonder and belief of the Good News! Be filled by Him to help others see out of their darkness. Pray for one another, show grace to those around you and allow God to use you to encourage each other!

Prayer: Dear Father, please forgive me for allowing darkness into my life by what I chose to watch. Thank you for this tough life lesson. Please allow it to touch the reader’s life in a way that only You can. You alone are aware of the darkness in their lives. Help them to reach out for help and encouragement, so that they too will brightly shine Your light! In Jesus’ precious name. Amen!

Esteem His Name

Then those who feared the Lord spoke to one another, and the Lord gave attention and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the Lord and who esteem His name. Malachi 3:16

It seemed a bit colder this morning and the room was a bit brighter. Had it snowed overnight? Had my wish for a white Christmas come true? I scrambled out of bed, threw back my window curtain to see a white frosty yard with the sunbeams shining through the branches. Smoke wafted across the rooftop, puffing from the red brick chimney. It did not snow, yet the white frosted yard hinted towards a white Christmas and I was still filled with joy and expectation.

I entered the hallway and heard voices chattering from the kitchen. Mom and Dad were awake and were making breakfast. Dad was frying the bacon and mom was at the oven pulling out the quiche. The tasty scents swiftly caused my tummy to gurgle and I could not wait to have breakfast then open our presents. Mom had set the table and glasses were filled with orange juice and sparkling apple juice were in the tall skinny glasses. Christmas music was playing softly in the background and I was filled with excitement as I wondered what was in the packages labeled with my name.

Is there a gift that you have been hoping for that you can not wait to open today? I do hope that your day is filled with joy and happiness. There is one gift that we all have been given and it is the reason that we celebrate Christmas:

For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that everyone who believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

“Behold, the virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call Him Immanuel” (which means, “God with us”). Matthew 1:23

For unto us a Child was born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6

Today in the City of David a Savior has been born to you. He is Christ the Lord! Luke 2:11

To open this special gift and receive the Savior, all you need to do: “That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.” Romans 10:9-10

Prayer: Dear Lord, thank you for sending your Son for all to see and celebrate on this special day. May all eyes and hearts be open to what this day truly means. May many be saved and encouraged by your Word. In Jesus’ precious name. Amen.

For further reading: Malachi 3

The Light of Christmas

Jesus spoke to the people, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life” John 8:12

Christmas traditions can be so much fun and come in a variety of packages. My family loved special holiday movies, decorating the tree, and attending church programs and plays. Another favorite tradition was looking at light displays. One neighborhood in particular, “Peacock Lane”, went all out during the Christmas season to bring more light and joy to the city.

My family would get all bundled up with heavy coats and hats, because “Peacock Lane” had to be experienced first hand, that meant one must walk through the neighborhood.

Upon arriving, we were bombarded with happy chaos. People strolling down the sidewalks, talking and laughing. Christmas music playing from individual homes, while people sang along and children ran about in excitement. And of course there were the beautiful lights. Each home had gone out of their way to express their creativity of the season. Peacock Lane was truly one of our favorite traditions.

The lights of Christmas point to Christ our Savior. For He is the light of the world that leads us to eternal life. When we follow Jesus and believe He is the Son of God, we too, carry the light of Christ in our hearts.

Jesus told His followers, “You are the light of the world.” (Matthew 5:14)

So what are we to do with this light? “Let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your Heavenly Father.” (Matthew 5:16)

Make your own special Christmas traditions this year and let the light of Christ shine brightly in all you do.

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for sending your Son to earth, to save us and to bring us hope of one day living with you forever in heaven. A place where there is no death or sickness, no evil or corruption. Help us to be that light to a dark world, so that more people may experience the true light of Christmas, which is Jesus Christ our Lord. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

For further reading: Matthew 5

Comforting Light

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“Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.”     Psalm 119:105

“For thou wilt light my candle: the LORD my God will enlighten my darkness.” Psalm 18:28

 

I love candles. I enjoy entering a store with all types of candles and opening the lids to breathe in warm vanillas, sweet pears and apples, and comforting fireside smells. Currently, I sit beside a cleverly named candle, frosted cranberry, crafted with cedarwood and orange essential oils. Its scent brings a sense of peace, tranquility, and focus.

Yet, nothing compares to the peace, tranquility and focus that God’s Word gives to me each time I read it. His Word is the sweetest fruit, the brightest fire, the straightest laid path.

Each day, each morning is an opportunity for us to open His Word and breathe in and savor His Words while lingering in His message. His message lights our way and gives loving instructions for every area in our life to bring us out of the darkness and into His loving, comforting light. 

Prayer: Lord, thank you for your Word. Thank you that when we seek you, you light our candle bringing warmth and comfort to our days and light for our path. May we be able to study your Word day and night, so that we focus on you to guide our day and rest in you when we slumber. In your precious Son’s name, Jesus. Amen. 

For further reading: Psalm 18

God Is All Powerful

3c6385e3-d344-4480-93f1-7d78312f1cd1 He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful and so that you might always fear the Lord your God.   Joshua 4:24

The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.”  Jeremiah 31:3

One fall day my sister was babysitting her grandkids. She got a call from her son-in-law saying, he would be passing through their little city of Milwaukee, and he wanted them to come out to see him. The girls were six and three years old at the time

Jason, the children’s father was a conductor for the Railroad, he wanted his girls to see him at his job as he came through town. So, my sister threw the kids in the car and raced to downtown Milwaukee. They parked right by the track so they could see him and waited for the train to pass by.

After about ten minutes of anxiously waiting, they began to hear a train in the distance. It was coming closer, getting louder, and louder. And even though the girls were excited to see their daddy, they became afraid of the great noise and power that was heading their way. They ran back to the car, and jumped in, shaking with excitement and fear. Even my sister said, she felt intimidated as the train drew closer, and closer.

Soon the huge train was in sight, barreling toward them, the ground was shaking, and the noise was so intense the girls covered their ears and their heads in awe. But as they looked up, at that big, monstrous, train,… just about upon them,… they could see their daddy, standing on the outside rail of the big engine. He had his overalls on and his conductor cap and a big smile on his face, waving to his girls. They squealed with delight and waved back, just as hard as they could.

Our God is mighty and powerful and awe-inspiring, just like that train. But just like Jason, the father of two little girls that he loves, God our Heavenly Father also loves and adores us, His children.

Prayer: Thank you Father, that you are strong and able to powerfully create and maintain everything on earth, including us. And thank you Father, that you are approachable and loving to your weak and needful children. I’m so glad you have both these characteristics. What a perfect Father you are. I love you Lord, amen.

Simple Christmas Joys

You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever. Psalm 16:11

Instead of sleeping, my sister and I lay in our beds talking about the fun we had making sugar cookies with our mom that afternoon. Bells, trees, ornaments and snowmen had been carefully cut out and joyfully decorated. We even got to sample a few.

Our room was filled with a soft light, for the shade was up on our window. We wanted to watch the gently falling snow outside. Big white fluffy flakes continued to drift down from heaven, landing on our windowsill and the trees and bushes outside.

Sleep continued to elude us as the beautiful winter scene began to beckon us to come take a closer look. We climbed out of our cozy beds and tiptoed barefoot across the cold wood floor to the window. Pushing up the heavy pane, we reached our hands out into the night to catch some snowflakes, then began to nibble on the snow that had accumulated on our windowsill. Oh what a joyous night it was!

Thinking back through childhood Christmases, I know I received many wonderful gifts over the years, yet I can’t seem to remember them very well.

What I do remember is the joy I felt in the simple things of the Christmas season. A warm and cozy house in the middle of a snowstorm. Spending time with my beloved big sister and my momma, being silly and creative as we made and ate sugar cookies, and the sweet stolen moments of eating snow from our bedroom window.

This Christmas take a moment to slow down and appreciate the sweet joys of simple moments. A thoughtful Christmas card, hot chocolate with your dear friend, music that fills your soul with longing for your Savior Jesus and maybe even a nighttime walk where you can catch a couple snowflakes.

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for simple pleasures, they make life so sweet. They remind us to be thankful people and to appreciate all the beautiful gifts you send us. We love you Lord. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

For further reading: Luke 2

Great Things

When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dreamed. Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.” The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy. Psalm 126:1-3

The holidays can either spin you into a stressful tizzy with money, food, wrapping paper, ribbons and tinsel a flying! Or, it brings your inner child out filled with awe and wonder as you unwrap your favorite nativity scene, observe your neighbors’ pretty lights and decorations, and see the kindness and joy shining in those around you.

Perhaps, you have family traditions that you look forward to that bring you and your family closer. Maybe, it is the way in which you celebrate advent; reading the story of Jesus, memorizing scripture, lighting candles, praying for others and celebrating one another for who God has created! For others, it may be singing Christmas carols and watching great Christmas movies and laughing big jolly laughs that spark your endorphins! Or, making new traditions while laughing and eating more candy than you used to decorate your gingerbread houses!

All of these are great things, yet remember that this time of year is for us to turn our hearts toward the precious baby Jesus that came to seek and save the lost and to give the greatest gift of all: a rich and satisfying life (John 10:10). Let our mouths be filled with laughter and our tongues singing songs of joy sharing the love of Jesus while we look forward to our life with Him in Heaven; where the joy of Christmas will be celebrated forever! (For more on that topic, see Linda’s great devotion Waiting for Jesus.)

Be encouraged!

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, what great news we have to celebrate and share! May our hearts be softened and our eyes opened to see how we can spread your loving kindness to all. Thank you for all the great things you have done for us and the greatest gift of all, Jesus! Amen

For further reading: John 10

God’s Word and Love Endure Forever

“The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.” Isaiah 40:8

“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever.” Psalm 136

In the early 1900s, my dad’s grandfather bought the Virginia farm pictured above. On the property is a historic home built in 1790. Over the hundreds of years, many lives have come and gone, withered and fallen. What did their day look like? Perhaps, after a long day of farming, by candlelight, they read the Bible and learned of the love of Jesus, His wisdom for daily living and placed their trust in Him.

I’m so thankful that I have the enduring Word of God to read, glean, be instructed and encouraged by especially on difficult days. I have felt like withering grass and that my petals are falling off. I’ve been distressed by those hurting around me (Romans 12:15). I’ve cried out to God to help me be stronger to be able to encourage them. Yet, it’s difficult to encourage when you yourself feel discouraged.

Unfortunately, discouragement can keep us from God. The further away from God we become, the easier it is for sin and discouragement to fill the void. Our lives, like the grass, withers. It is at times like this, that I choose to soak in God’s Word. I don’t just sip on His water, I gulp it in. His word is refreshing and renewing, healing and energizing (Psalm 51:10 and Colossians 3:10).

No matter what circumstances we are facing, let’s not forget that God’s Word and love endures forever.

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, You are the only One who can truly give life. I am so thankful for those You placed in my life to lead me to You. Bless their lives and if any shall have withered, renew them to continue encouraging others. Please help us all to be courageous encouragers. It is by Your love and strength alone that I write. May it be honoring to You and encouraging to those who read this. In Jesus’ precious name. Amen.