"My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness..." 2 Corinthians 12:9b

Monday, November 28, 2011

Deck Your Hearts with Boughs of Holly - Verse One

“The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel
(which means “God with us”). Matthew 1:23

          I was 24 days old on my first Christmas. My favorite picture shows me seated on my dad’s knee, a decorated tree in the background. His note on the back says he was explaining to me all about Christmas.
          Every year the department stores seem to begin their push to get us to buy the perfect gift earlier. It’s no longer unusual to see Christmas decorations right across the aisle from Halloween stuff—something that never ceases to strike me as paradoxical. The struggle to keep Christmas focused on the birth of Jesus is harder all the time.
          “Deck the halls with boughs of holly…” the song proclaims. We decorate our homes inside and out, bringing in beauty and greenery to brighten the stark winter season, but what about our hearts? Are we as deliberate to prepare our hearts for Christmas as we are our homes?
          Several years ago a friend of mine gave me a devotional book with 25 readings for morning and evening. It has become a precious ritual of mine to begin on the first of December to prepare my heart for the coming of Christ by filling it twice a day with reminders from scripture.
          The Christmas rush of department stores can destroy “the season to be jolly” rather quickly. A heart rightly prepared for the coming of the Christ Child can be filled with joy anywhere, any time, even if your life circumstances keep the holidays from being one of your favorite times.
          As you “don” your “gay apparel” spend some time listening to the words of the age-old Yuletide carols about the birth of Jesus Christ.
          This year concentrate more on preparing your heart than your home. Spend time telling about the real meaning of  Christmas—the coming of Immanuel—God with us.

Copyright by Norma Gail Thurston-Holtman & 2MefromHim Ministries, 2011. All rights reserved. Do not use without permission of author.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Giving Thanks

Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name.” Hebrews 13:15

It was less than two months since my dad’s death. Shortly before that my father-in-law had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Thanksgiving was a difficult time. Our families gathered in the usual fashion, but there was a damper on the usually boisterous groups. Pain, loss and questions filled our hearts and minds.
Looking back sixteen years, I remember feeling as if I was in a fog for months, sort of operating on auto-pilot. The only thing I can clearly recall is a painful recognition that nothing would ever be the same again and a desperate longing for the way things used to be, but we could be thankful for those two precious men and God’s presence.
The two most famous proclamations of thanksgiving in our country were not made during times of great joy and celebration, but following times of great hardship and suffering marked by the recognition that God is good even when circumstances are not.
William Bradford, Governor of Plymouth Colony, issued his proclamation of thanksgiving in the autumn of 1621. Almost a year following their landing at Plymouth Rock, only 44 remained of the Pilgrims’ original number of 102, due to malnutrition, scurvy and other illnesses. They had survived partly due to the kindness of the Native Americans of the area, in particular, Squanto and Massasoit.
When Abraham Lincoln gave his Proclamation creating the national day of Thanksgiving in 1863, the celebration took place only one week after his dedication of the cemetery at Gettysburg, “In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity.”
We can identify far more easily with the loss of the Pilgrims and our predecessors of Lincoln’s time than with the perfect families in television commercials and Hallmark movies. The writer of Hebrews says we are to offer thanks as a sacrifice. At the cost of our own personal feelings, our thanks should be based in the person of our Lord and Savior who gave His life that we might have forgiveness of sins and eternal life. Our thanks is not based in outward circumstances or the bounty of good things we possess, but the person of Jesus Christ.
This year, look at the things God says we should be thanking Him for. Take time to go around the table and comment on what God has done for you in spite of the difficulties of life. Rejoice in Him.

(Quotation from Lincoln’s “Thanksgiving Day Proclamation”)

Copyright by Norma Gail Thurston-Holtman & 2MefromHim Ministries, 2011. All rights reserved. Do not use without permission of author.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Special Christmas Series Coming Soon!

Be watching for the special devotional series for the month of December.
Deck Your Heart with Boughs of Holly is a three part series encouraging us to pay more attention to the preparation of our hearts for Christmas than we do on decorating our homes, buying the perfect gift, and preparing the best-ever Christmas dinner.

Look forward to a special Christmas week poem which you can share with friends who don't know Jesus Christ.

Have a blessed Holy-day season!

Monday, November 14, 2011

When Opportunity Knocks

“Be very careful then, how you live—not as unwise, but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” Ephesians 5:15-17
The thought nagged at me for days, but I kept shoving it to the back of my mind. I was busy with little kids with ear infections and housework, avoiding the unpleasant complaining I knew the phone call would bring to my unwilling ears. The urge to make call my friend wouldn’t go away, but I stubbornly ignored it for two whole weeks.
          The phone ringing as we were getting ready for bed was odd. It startled both my husband and I. We sat down on the edge of the bed in disbelief, the tragedy in the life of our friends’ unreal and shocking. Then I remembered that irritating nudge to pick up the phone. Was there anything I could have said which would have changed things? Would my phone call have made a difference?
          Thirty years later, I still remember. I have no trouble believing God was behind the incessant urging. I still doubt the ability of my words to change a situation which had been growing for years—yet how can I know that even my willingness to be a listening ear might have turned the tide somehow.
          I have no way of knowing how God intends to use me in the lives of the people around me. I don’t know what will happen in the next days, weeks or even years that might cause something I said to make a difference in what someone else chooses to do. I have no idea what impact God could make through my obedience to that recurring thought that just won’t go away—what might happen if I obeyed instead of ignored. I think I learned the lesson of obedience though.
          Paul urged the Ephesians to live carefully, to live wisely. I can never get back that opportunity to act in obedience to Him. We live in evil days when Christians are tempted by so many things.
          Proverbs says that fearing the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Do you pray for wisdom when you feel the urging of the Holy Spirit? Have you ever failed to do what you were being urged to for selfish reasons? 
Be careful about how you react to the inner voice of the Holy Spirit. Make the most of the opportunities God gives you and act in obedience rather than selfish indifference. Be alert to when God’s opportunities knock. Your choice might make all the difference for someone else.

Copyright by Norma Gail Thurston-Holtman & 2MefromHim Ministries, 2011. All rights reserved. Do not use without permission of author.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Frolicking with God

“There the ships go to and fro,
   and Leviathan, which you formed to frolic there.”
Psalm 104:26

          I saw a story on the news of a kayaker out in the ocean getting up close enough to swim in the water beside a great Blue whale. I’ve been fascinated by Blue whales since an elementary school science book showed a drawing of one with a school bus, dinosaur, house and a tiny person next to. The description of its heart being the size of a car never ceases to overwhelm me.
          The phrase “which you formed to frolic there” fills me with a sense of awe at a God who would create such an amazing animal for the pure joy of it. What a wonderful God who takes delight in His creatures frolicking. We do not think as often as we should about our God delighting in us, enjoying us and wanting us to have fun.
Rather than being some hard taskmaster who cracks the whip and demands our obedience to rules and regulations, this verse is a terrific reminder that God wants me to know Him. A pod of gigantic, rarely seen animals appearing where large numbers of tourists can be thrilled by them seems to be God reaching out to man to show us who He is. He constantly sends reminders of His existence and causes us to stand in awe of His incredible creativity, diversity, imagination and love.
It is so important to remember Genesis, where God kneels in the dust and forms man with His own hands, then gently breathes the breath of life into his nostrils. We need to read from time to time that all God created He called good. He created us to love and to be loved by us.
No matter where you find yourself in relationship to God, take time to ponder on these words. Realize that the Creator of the universe sees you as someone special. He created you to take delight in you and He wants to be known by you.
If you’re not close to God, perhaps these whales can change your perception of Him.
 Take time today to open up His word. Be reminded of His tender love and then, spend some time frolicking with God, enjoying Him so that He can enjoy you.

Copyright by Norma Gail Thurston-Holtman & 2MefromHim Ministries, 2011. All rights reserved. Do not use without permission of author.