The Christmas Tree; The Christmas Branch

Good day friends! I pray your week and weekend went well!

Have you started decorating your home? I love decorating my home. For me, one of the most important decorations is my Christmas tree. Let’s fill up our coffees and ponder one specific tree…

Readings for Dec 8: Second Sunday in Advent

Isaiah 11:1-10; Psalm 72:1-7; Romans 15:4-13; Matthew 3:1-12

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The spirit of the Lord will rest on him.  Isaiah 11:1-2a

Have you put your tree up yet? I have. I love putting up my Christmas tree. Although it is usually a task I do all alone, I love my time in solitude preparing the tree. I get my tree-in-a-box out, my lights untangled, my decorations organized, my Handel’s Messiah playing, and away I go. Resurrecting the tree with all its colourful decorations and glowing lights is quite a site to take in, and with its tall stature and strategic placement in my livingroom, it is hard to miss by those who pass by my home. Its beauty is something I not only wish to personally take time to enjoy, but I want to share it with everyone.

In this coming Sunday’s readings, we learn from Isaiah that a branch will spring from a stump of a tree. It is a branch that shoots up from the family tree of Jesse, King David’s father; from the line of David. This branch is Jesus, our Saviour, and Isaiah tells us about him about 700 years before he is actually born; 700 years before the first Christmas. Jesus’ birth is no accident. His birth was foretold, his actions were described and his purpose of redeeming humankind was to unfold starting with that first Christmas morning. God had it all planned out from the moment Adam and Eve committed the very first sin.

advent-2.jpgAs we ponder each strategically place decoration that hangs from each branch on our trees, may we think of the branch of Jesse, our Saviour, who intentionally left his heavenly home to be born into this world to redeem us – you and me. May the glorious beauty of knowing his salvation fill you with radiant joy as you continue with your Christmas preparations during this Advent season.  And for always, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13)

Prayer: Dear Lord, during these busy days, help me to remember that your birth was planned with purpose and patience for me and my salvation. Fill me with your patience and the joy and peace that such wonderful news brings. With the same intention and joy that I desire to share the beauty of my Christmas tree, help me to share your beautiful plan of salvation with all people. In Jesus’ name I pray. AMEN!

What are you hoping for this Christmas?

Good day friends! I pray your week and weekend went well!

This coming Sunday starts the beginning of Advent. Advent is the season in the church year leading up to Christmas, which includes the four Sundays prior to Christmas. Like Lent is a time of reflection before the death and resurrection of Jesus, Advent is a time to focus and reflect on the birth of Jesus.

Over the next four weeks we will focus on preparing ourselves for Christ’s coming, for Christmas… and that doesn’t mean organizing our Christmas lists. …lol

Let’s top up our coffees and begin preparing for the real reason for the season

Readings for Dec 1: First Sunday in Advent 

Isaiah 2:1-5; Psalm 122; Romans 13:8-14; Matthew 21:1-11 or 24:36-44

…Clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ,

and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.

Romans 13:14

Advent 1 Hope.jpgHave you begun planning your Christmas lists, or started purchasing or making any gifts yet? Does the thought of those tasks give you high blood pressure and anxiety? I have known some people to come to literally hate Christmas because of the expectation, stress and expense that surrounds the gift giving portion of our society’s ‘Christmas’.

Although the meaning behind gift giving at Christmas is wonderful since the human race was given the best gift ever in Christ Jesus, and the story of Saint Nicholas and his Christmas stockings is reflective of how we as Christians should live, getting gifts for others and desiring gifts for ourselves should not be the focus of our time and attention.  As Christians, we should not be celebrating this festival like those who do not know the Lord; like those who do not know the hope and salvation we have in that little baby that is being born in a few short weeks. Even more importantly, our habits and lives should reflect and lead people to the joyous and peaceful anticipation and hope of Christmas morning. However, our habits, words, and actions are only outward reactions of where our hearts are at. Therefore,  may we focus our hearts on Christ and let Christmas and all its wonderful activities, festivities and gift giving fall into their proper place.

As you begin this Advent Season, may I challenge you to spend just as much time, or more, thinking about how Christ came to earth in order to clothe you in his righteousness as you do thinking about how to gratify the desires of your family, friends and self through the physical preparation of Christmas lists and activities. Every time you begin thinking about your Christmas ‘to-do list’, take time to pray, giving thanks for Christ’s coming as a baby, and ask God to guide you in your preparations so that you can make him a priority and be a light of his love to all whom you encounter.

Prayer: Dear Jesus, as we approach this Advent Season and prepare for the coming of the Saviour of the World, help me to not get so caught up in the chaos that our society has turned Christmas into. Help me to be your light of HOPE, PEACE, JOY, and LOVE to all I meet and especially to my family and friends. In Jesus’ name I pray. AMEN!

The Criminal’s Fate

Good day friends! I pray your week and weekend went well!

This coming Sunday is the last Sunday of the church year, and it is fitting to be ending the year with Jesus’ final words to us, through his words to the criminal on the cross. Let’s top up our coffees and take a closer look…

Readings for November 24: Last Sunday of the Church Year

Malachi 3:13-18; Psalm 46; Colossians 1:13-20; Luke 23:27-43

Then [the criminal] said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Luke 23:42-43

I can never get enough of this conversation between the thief on the cross and Jesus. There are so many lessons to learn about God’s character and humankind’s behaviour and salvation.

To begin with, let’s focus on the thief. We don’t know much about this fellow except that he was a criminal. He even acknowledged his unlawful and evil deeds. He may have lived every moment of his days plotting and scheming, and then cursed the day he got caught. Through crucifixion, this criminal was getting what he deserved, as per the laws of the day. He was an outright criminal and his deeds were worthy of death. Without a doubt he was sentenced to die!

Yes, he would die. Yet, in those final moments of his life, as he hung in pain and humility upon that cross, he acknowledged Jesus and his kingdom, and requested Jesus to be merciful to him and to remember him as Jesus returned to Heaven. In those few seconds that passed between the two of them, the final outcome for this criminal changed forever. He would not be receiving death, but life eternal. Not by anything he had done in his life, but simply by acknowledging God in his mercy through Christ.

Think about it. This criminal had no way of erasing or lessening anything he had done in the past. He simply saw Christ as he was and acknowledged him to be God, to be his God and Saviour. In the same way, just like this criminal, it does not matter what your past deeds are, or even the deeds of others. You cannot erase them. God knows all of them. They should not control you or have power over you, and they certainly do not stand in the way of God loving you and desiring you to be with him for eternity.

God in his grace and mercy simply desires you to repent of your sins and leave themimg_0057 with Jesus, acknowledging Jesus as the one who has taken those sins and paid their penalty on that dreadful day 2000 years ago. For just as the criminal said, “We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong,” Jesus didn’t have to be there, hanging on a tree, paying the penalty for the most evil of deeds. Yet, he was. He was there paying the penalty for your sins and mine. So, just like that criminal that day, even if you are breathing your last breath, no matter what you’ve done, may you too lay your sins before Jesus in humility and repentance, and acknowledge him as your Saviour. And may you hear Jesus’ most precious words whispered in your ear, “Truly I tell you, today [and always] you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43)

Finally, may we never limit God’s grace of salvation to anyone, but pray for everyone and be Christ’s lights always. For even in one’s final breath, Jesus is ready and desiring to bring them to himself in paradise.

Prayer: Dear Jesus, Thank-you for your sacrifice on my behalf. Please forgive me all my sins that caused you to pay such a terrible price. You are my God and my Redeemer. Remember me this day, whether here on earth or life eternal. In your most precious name I pray. AMEN!

Wars & Disasters. Any surprise?

Good day friends! I pray your week and weekend went well!

Today is Remembrance Day! May we all take time to give thanks and remember those who have fought for our freedom.

To all of you who have endured the battle grounds on my behalf and the behalf of my loved ones so that we could be free to live and love, speak and write in our land: We are ever indebted to you. Thank-you! God bless you! …Brenda

(It never ceases to amaze me how the Holy Spirit works. I could not have planned it better, to have these readings and this devotion topic for today. It is so very fitting.)

No one likes war. No one likes disasters or devestations. Yet, they are very much part of this world! Should we be surprised? Let’s top up our coffees and dig into this topic further…

Readings for November 17: 23rd Sunday after Pentecost

Malachi 4:1-6; Psalm 98; 2 Thessalonians 3:1-13; Luke 21:5-28

When you hear of wars and uprisings, do not be frightened… Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences…  (Luke 21:9a, 10-11a)

fireWars, rumours of wars, corruption, corrupt leaders, natural disasters. There are so many activities in this world that cause us worry and concern; concern for ourselves and our future, concerns for our children and our grandchildren. We just need to turn on the radio or television, our computers or cell phone apps, and we are bombarded with dreadful activities all over the world. What pain and sorrow these devastating events bring. The earth is breaking down and nations are in conflict with their leaders and other nations. Yes, what a dreadful state of worry we could be drowning in.

However, Jesus’ words above are words that give us hope and courage, wisdom and endurance. His words clearly tell us that what we are experiencing is no surprise. In fact, these devastating things will come. You can expect them. He is not saying that we are to go and be part of the evil and destruction that is occurring, but we do not need to fear it. In fact, he himself tells us “do not be frightened.” (Luke 21:9)

On the contrary, instead of being fearful, we can confront these dreadful events with the expectation that they are simply the result of living in a dying world with sinful beings, and they will happen – whatever they are. We can be on our guard to “stand firm” (Luke 21:19a) and always be prepared to “never tire of doing what is good.” (2 Thessalonians 3:13b) In fact, it is during these times when the love of Christ should be seen so brightly in this world as it radiates in love towards others, through helping hands in the support and rebuilding of lives after a natural disaster, in intercessory prayer for our national leaders and for families of victims caught in useless, evil killings, through the simple casserole dish taken to a neighbour burdened with ill health, and in the sharing with a friend, burdened with loneliness, the fact that (s)he has a Creator and Redeemer who deeply loves him/her and desires to never leave him/her.

Although Satan, the world and our sinful, weak selves would prefer to be caught up in worry and dread about what lies ahead, we can turn away and focus ourselves on Jesus’ words to stand firm and to not be afraid. For it is our time to shine his glory and love into a lost and dying world that is desperately seeking hope and a future.

Prayer: Dear Lord, Please be with all those homes and families that are suffering the death of loved ones through natural disasters or humankind’s evilness. Help me to be your loving hands and voice. Help me to share your saving grace to those who do not know you and are lost and burdened with care. Shine through me so that others may see your light and saving grace. In Jesus’ name I pray. AMEN!

Always Living

Good day friends! I pray your week and weekend went well!

Readings for November 10: 22nd Sunday after Pentecost

Exodus 3:1-15; Psalm 148; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-17; Luke 20:27-40

He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.

Luke 20:38

Recently I attended the funeral of a woman who had come to mean a lot to me. She was a faithful follower of Christ and a dear neighbour. Since her death, I have found it very easy to focus on the hole in my life without her, as well as, the fact that her once so lively, active body was delivered back to the earth- earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust. How fleeting life seems. It’s so easy to focus on one’s physical death, as if this life is all there is.

doorwayHowever, as we read this week’s readings, we can be assured that, although we humanly see the separation and lifelessness that comes with our physical death, God does not ever see us dead. In Christ, whether we walk this earth, or are present with him in eternity, we are alive. The act of death seems to be strictly a doorway that a person must walk through. It does not have the ultimate power over who we are and the life we have.

Our God has always been a God of the living. We were never meant to have to die however sin brought death, and thankfully God even overcame our death through Christ’s redemption. Therefore, through Christ, with God we are alive whether living this earthly life or walking in eternity. What comfort, joy, and hope we can have. Our sorrow is not one of hopelessness, for we are not grieving eternal death from our loved ones, but simply temporary separation.

Will we miss and grieve the passing of our loved ones? Absolutely! But we have hope in the victory we have over death. We can be assured that we are alive in Christ now and always, and so are our loved ones. We can rejoice in our eternal life which we are living in this world and the next. For God is a God of the living, not the dead!

Prayer: Dear Lord, Thank-you for being a God of the living. Help us to always remember that in Christ death has no power over us. We are alive in you always and forever. In Jesus’ name I pray. AMEN!

The Hope of Saints. The Glory of Life Eternal.

Good day friends! I pray your week and weekend went well!

One of the greatest gifts of our life in Christ is the joy and comfort we have as we ponder death, especially as we remember those who have died already. Let us top up our coffees and reflect upon this hope and encouragement…

Readings for November 3: All Saints’ Day

Revelation 7:2-17; Psalm 149; 1 John 3:1-3; Matthew 5:1-12

…and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice:

“Salvation belongs to our God,
who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb.”

Revelation 7:9-10

This coming Sunday we will be commemorating All Saints’ Day, the day that we remember those, especially our loved ones, who have died with the assurance of eternal life that only Christ our Saviour can give us and instill in our hearts. We remember their earthly trials, their burdens, their sufferings, but we also remember their joyful hope, their patience in affliction, their faithful prayers and their thankfulness to God’s faithfulness.

brilliant.jpgOh yes, I enjoy All Saints’ Day.  In particular, on this day I especially remember and give thanks for my dad, my mom, my brother, and my sister. I remember their earthly journeys. I also reflect upon their impact on my life and my faith in Jesus as my Lord and Saviour. They all had their joys and their trials.  All of them struggled. All of them were sinful. However, all of them lived their last earthly days with saving faith in their hearts as they faced their final breath, and I am assured that they are rejoicing in the presence of God and the Lamb. They are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat down on them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Revelation 7:15-17

Although I still miss them deeply even after all these years, I can take great comfort in knowing that they are in the glory of our God where there is no more pain or sin. They are in such a wondrous place that the minds of humans cannot comprehend its beauty.  I also know that, because of Christ, one day I will be reunited with them. I will be standing alongside them, singing the praises of our Lord in his glorious presence. What a glorious thought.  What a glorious assurance.

May you too take time to remember those you know and love who have passed on in the faith. Give thanks for them and the life eternal they have in Christ; the life eternal that you too will enjoy one day. Thanks be to God!

Prayer: Dear Lord, Thank-you for all those in my life that have died in the faith. They were for me teachers and mentors, encouragers and examples of quiet endurance. I especially pray for ________________________. Also, thank-you for your Word and these glimpses of heaven and  life eternal for all those who pass on in the saving faith of Jesus. Give me comfort and assurance as I continue to endure the trials of this earthly life. In Jesus’ name I pray. AMEN!

All are justified freely. Believe it!

Good day friends! I pray your week and weekend went well!

This Sunday we will be celebrating the Reformation, lead by Martin Luther in the 16th century. It was a cry within the church to turn back to proclaiming our salvation is attained by God’s grace alone, in Christ’s redeeming sacrifice alone, through our faith alone; not by works. Let us top up our coffee’s and remember…

Readings for Sunday, October 27: Reformation Day (Oct 31st)

Revelation 14:6-7; Psalm 46; Romans 3:19-28; John 8:31-36 or Matthew 11:12-19

There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood – to be received by faith. Romans 3:22b-25a

Have you ever felt like you just didn’t measure up? Maybe it was an academic subject, or a job, or a relationship? No matter how hard you tried or what you did, you just didn’t feel adequate or have what it took to do what was expected. Well I have. There have been many times and situations in my life where I felt like I just didn’t do the job well enough. I was not as good of a friend, wife, sister, mother, grandmother, co-worker, or teacher that I should have been. Many times those feelings were my own insecure thoughts, the world’s haughty expectations, or Satan’s whispers which were meant to deflate me and show me the reality of my inabilities.

Yes, we can easily see how we fall short of this world’s expectations. In this light, we should be able to clearly see how we then fall short of the glory of God. Personally, I know that no matter how hard I try, there are so many times in a day that I do not measure up to his laws. How about you? I believe, one look into the mirror of our souls and we will see our frailties and flaws, our inadequacies and imperfections. We will see our sins and our inabilities to turn from our sinfulness. There is no way that we deserve or could justify ourselves to be in the presence of our omniscient, all-powerful, and great Heavenly Father. Yet, through faith in all that Christ has done for us, we are justified freely by his grace. We can stand in his presence now and forever.

believe.jpgIn Christ, we don’t need to put on a façade or front, but can lay our sins and weaknesses before him. He knows exactly what they are and has bestowed his forgiveness and cleansing upon us.  He sees that many times we don’t measure up to the next guy. However, as we seek him as our Saviour, he prepares and strengthens us for the tasks he has prepared for us; not to compare ourselves to the guy next to us, but to work in the strength, the talents, and the abilities that he has given us. In all things we are justified freely by his grace, to do the good works he has prepared for us to do, until the day he calls us home. So, live as God’s child who has been freely justified through faith in Christ’s redeeming blood. Go and be all that he desires you to be until the day he desires you to be with him.

Prayer: Dear Lord, we are bombarded with how inadequate and sinful we are, especially before you. Yet you have taken care of it all for us. Yes, your law shows us our sins, but it will never redeem us. We will always fall short, each and every one of us. But thanks be to God, that you have worked out our salvation through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus, our Saviour. You have freely given us life eternal, through a faith that proclaims Jesus is Lord. Thank-you! Please instill that seed of faith in all people. In Jesus’ name I pray. AMEN!

Sleep Like A Baby

Good day friends! I pray your week and weekend went well!

Happy Thanksgiving, from Canada! There are so many things to be thankful for. Where do we start? This week’s devotion focusses on God’s salvation, faithfulness and Word, for which we are forever grateful. Let’s top up our coffees and get started…

Readings for Sunday, October 20: 19th Sunday after Pentecost

Genesis 32:22-30; Psalm 121; 2 Timothy 3:14..4:5; Luke 18:1-8

… he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord watches over you…  He will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore. Psalm 121:3b-5a, 7b-8

Like parents lovingly watch over their precious little baby, so God watches over us. Like a helpless, totally dependent baby sleeps with the greatest of peace and contentment, so we can rest in knowing that our God is watching over us with the greatest of care and diligence. His care is perfect and always there. There is nothing we need to fear. He will not let our foot slip. He is our shade. Not even the sun can harm us by day nor the moon by night. He will keep us from all harm. Where else can such help come from?

Only in God our maker, who loves us so much that he took upon himself the remedy for our sin and redeemed us through his own son, can we find the help we need to get through our days. Only in him can we be confident in our life’s journey. Only in knowing him through his word can we fully know what he desires for us. He has given us his Holy Word to help guide us. For “all scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy3:16-17)

His word equips us for every good work he has in store for us, every trial that comes our way, every sin we may commit, every choice we have to make, and every reason to celebrate. He gives us his word to remind us that he is watching over us day and night. It reminds us that he will never leave us. May it always remind you that he loves you, that in Christ he has redeemed you, and that he will never ever leave you no matter what comes your way. So take heart and rest in knowing you are being watched over with such great love and care. Sleep like a baby knowing he is watching over you always, and forever!

Prayer: Dear Lord, I life up my eyes to the mountains – where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth. (Psalm 121:1-2) Thank-you! Help me to always remember that you are watching over me. When I am seeking help and guidance, help me to always turn to your living word. In Jesus’ name I pray. AMEN!

Here is a trustworthy saying…

Good day friends! I pray your week and weekend went well!

Can you think of sayings that have shown themselves trustworthy from generation to generation? Well, today Paul shares with us a trustworthy saying. Let’s top up our coffees and dig into it…

Readings for Sunday, October 13: 18th Sunday after Pentecost

Ruth 1:1-19a; Psalm 111; 2 Timothy 2:1-13; Luke 17:11-19

Here is a trustworthy saying:

If we died with him, we will also live with him;

If we endure, we will also reign with him.

If we disown him, he will also disown us;

If we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself.

2 Timothy 2:11-13

Stop and take a moment to think on your life. Think about some of the things you may take for granted: Do you have people who love you? Did the sun rise today to give you light? Did you have a place to sleep this past evening? Do you have food in your stomach? Did you hear the birds singing? Did you see a beautiful sunset or budding flower? Do you have the health to get done what you feel you need to do today? Is your body taking in fresh breaths of air?

Have you acknowledged God and his faithfulness for any of these things? Whether we thank and acknowledge him for his care and creation or not, God remains faithful. Even if we are ignorant of him and faithless, he will always be faithful to his creation for he cannot disown himself and what is his. We are his whether we accept it or not. He is our creator and despite our sin and rebellion, he continues to lavish his blessings upon us all – those who believe in all he has accomplished for us and all who do not. The sun rises and sets on all creation!

However, the ultimate difference is what happens for eternity. God has set in place his plan of salvation for those he created in his image, for all of humankind. “He provided redemption for his people.” (Psalm 111:9a) He desires us to cling to his words of truth in the saving works of Jesus who paid the penalty for our sins. Therefore, if in this life we hold fast to the truth that our sinful flesh died with Christ, then we too will live with him… in eternity. If we endure and hold fast to Christ, our King, during our earthly days, we too will reign with him… in eternity. However, if we close the door and deny all that God has done for us and the redemption he has provided, then the door will remain closed… for eternity. Therefore, my prayer is that all people see God’s grace and mercy in all that they encounter today and always, here on earth and for eternity!

Prayer: Dear Lord, Thank-you for your faithfulness and care during each moment of each day! Please forgive me for taking for granted so many blessings that you bestow upon me and the means by which you fulfill my needs for this life. By your Holy Spirit, keep the door of my heart open to all that you have accomplished for me through Jesus, my Saviour, and because of him, I look forward to walking through your opened door to eternity with you. In Jesus’ name I pray. AMEN!

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