Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Evening Scripture Reading - Galatians 6:10

Galatians 6:10 Holman Christian Standard Bible

Therefore, as we have opportunity, we must work for the good of all, especially for those who belong to the household of faith.

Psalms Scripture Reading - Psalm 51:6-9

Psalm 51:6-9 Holman Christian Standard Bible

Surely You desire integrity in the inner self,
and You teach me wisdom deep within.
Purify me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones You have crushed rejoice.
Turn Your face away from my sins
and blot out all my guilt.

Mid-Week Message - The Wonder of the Season

"But the angel said to her, 'Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus.  He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.'"  Luke 1:30-32a  (NIV)

I am a very sentimental mother of one.  That sentimentality comes out in full force during the Christmas season.  Every memory of my daughter's early years comes flooding back.  I can still see her little eyes as she watched the blinking lights on the tree, her surprise as she entered the living room on Christmas morning and hear her exclamation of excitement when she saw a red blinking light on top of a tower and decided that it was Rudolph. Shopping, decorating the house, hanging the stockings and everything else preparing for the day are still all done with her in mind.  She is grown now, however, the advent calendar that I got for her as a toddler still hangs each year and all the pockets are filled with candy.

Yes, being a mother has given me great joy.  Because of that, I cannot hear any of the Christmas story without wondering about Mary.  Here is this young girl, greeted by an Angel (not exactly an everyday occurrence) who tells her that she is going to conceive a child.  Not just any child, but the Son of God.  And while the Angel tells her not to be afraid, I can't even imagine what must have been going through her mind.  I know she was chosen of the Lord and must have had incredible faith, but she was also human.  What were her initial thoughts and feelings?  I can just feature her standing in front of the mirror and saying, "What just happened?" Whatever the process was for her, we can hear the joy of her soul later in the chapter.  If she had fear or apprehension, she was able to put it aside and glorify God while she was with Elizabeth.  

Scripture shows us that children are special to the Father.  Psalm 127:3 tells us that, "Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from Him."  The fact that He sent His son to earth in the manner He chose amazes me.  He entered the world the same way we all do, through human birth.  He who has all power was a newborn helpless infant. He was totally dependent on imperfect earthly parents.  He cried when He was hungry.  He had to learn to walk.  He experienced the discomfort of teething, skinned knees and tummy aches.  As His mother, I am sure that Mary watched the same expressions on His face and heard excitement in His voice the way we do with our children.  

The wonder that little ones experience during this season is a wonder that we all should share in.  The very first Christmas gift was a baby.  This baby left His place in Heaven for each one of us. His birth was for the whole world but it was a personal gift to me and to you.  It came with hope, purpose and salvation.  Because of Him, we have an eternal reason to raise our voices in song.

As we all prepare for this season, let's keep Jesus as our primary focus.  With each gift we purchase and wrap, we can say "thank you" for the first gift, the perfect gift.  When we hang our ornaments and enjoy the lights on our homes and trees, let us remember that He is the source of true beauty and the Light of the World.  And as we set up and admire our nativity scenes, we should pay close attention to the participants and wonder what they wondered. 

Proverbs Scripture Reading - Proverbs 28:12

Proverbs 28:12 Holman Christian Standard Bible

When the righteous triumph,
there is great rejoicing,
but when the wicked come to power,
people hide themselves.

Morning Scripture Reading - Numbers 6:24-26

Numbers 6:24-26 Holman Christian Standard Bible

May Yahweh bless you and protect you;
may Yahweh make His face shine on you
and be gracious to you;
may Yahweh look with favor on you
and give you peace.

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Evening Scripture Reading - Acts 7:51-53

Acts 7:51-53 Holman Christian Standard Bible

“You stiff-necked people with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are always resisting the Holy Spirit; as your ancestors did, so do you. Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? They even killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become. You received the law under the direction of angels and yet have not kept it.”

Psalms Scripture Reading - Psalm 52:1-5

Psalm 52:1-5 Holman Christian Standard Bible

For the choir director. A Davidic Maskil. When Doeg the Edomite went and reported to Saul, telling him, “David went to Ahimelech’s house.”

Why brag about evil, you hero!
God’s faithful love is constant.
Like a sharpened razor,
your tongue devises destruction,
working treachery.
You love evil instead of good,
lying instead of speaking truthfully.Selah
You love any words that destroy,
you treacherous tongue!
This is why God will bring you down forever.
He will take you, ripping you out of your tent;
He will uproot you from the land of the living. Selah

Proverbs Scripture Reading - Proverbs 28:11

Proverbs 28:11 Holman Christian Standard Bible

A rich man is wise in his own eyes,
but a poor man who has discernment sees through him.

Morning Scripture Reading - Deuteronomy 32:43

Deuteronomy 32:43 Holman Christian Standard Bible

Rejoice, you nations, concerning His people,
for He will avenge the blood of His servants.
He will take vengeance on His adversaries;
He will purify His land and His people.

Monday, November 28, 2022

Evening Scripture Reading - 2 Samuel 22:5-7

2 Samuel 22:5-7 Holman Christian Standard Bible

For the waves of death engulfed me;
the torrents of destruction terrified me.
The ropes of Sheol entangled me;
the snares of death confronted me.

I called to the Lord in my distress;
I called to my God.
From His temple He heard my voice,
and my cry for help reached His ears.

Psalms Scripture Reading - Psalm 51:18-19

Psalm 51:18-19 Holman Christian Standard Bible

In Your good pleasure, cause Zion to prosper;
build the walls of Jerusalem.
Then You will delight in righteous sacrifices,
whole burnt offerings;
then bulls will be offered on Your altar.

Proverbs Scripture Reading - Proverbs 28:10

Proverbs 28:10 Holman Christian Standard Bible

The one who leads the upright into an evil way
will fall into his own pit,
but the blameless will inherit what is good.

Morning Scripture Reading - Jonah 2:7-9

Jonah 2:7-9 Holman Christian Standard Bible

As my life was fading away,
I remembered Yahweh.
My prayer came to You,
to Your holy temple.
Those who cling to worthless idols
forsake faithful love,
but as for me, I will sacrifice to You
with a voice of thanksgiving.
I will fulfill what I have vowed.
Salvation is from the Lord!

Sunday, November 27, 2022

Evening Scripture Reading - Ezekiel 18:5-9

Ezekiel 18:5-9 Holman Christian Standard Bible

“Now suppose a man is righteous and does what is just and right: He does not eat at the mountain shrines or raise his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel. He does not defile his neighbor’s wife or come near a woman during her menstrual impurity. He doesn’t oppress anyone but returns his collateral to the debtor. He does not commit robbery, but gives his bread to the hungry and covers the naked with clothing. He doesn’t lend at interest or for profit but keeps his hand from wrongdoing and carries out true justice between men. He follows My statutes and keeps My ordinances, acting faithfully. Such a person is righteous; he will certainly live.” This is the declaration of the Lord God.

Psalms Scripture Reading - Psalm 51:14-17

Psalm 51:14-17 Holman Christian Standard Bible

Save me from the guilt of bloodshed, God,
the God of my salvation,
and my tongue will sing of Your righteousness.
Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth will declare Your praise.
You do not want a sacrifice, or I would give it;
You are not pleased with a burnt offering.
The sacrifice pleasing to God is a broken spirit.
God, You will not despise a broken and humbled heart.

First Sunday of Advent - Hope

According to Greek mythology, humankind was introduced to trouble and woe due to the curiosity of Pandora. If you remember the myth, Pandora was given a box and told not to open it. Of course, curiosity got the better of her and she opened the box. Evils of all kinds escaped the box and have plagued all of us since. The one thing that remained in the box was hope. It didn’t try to leave.

When you think back to Adam and Eve, our fallen world had its beginning in their disobedience. All of the trouble and woe we face today can easily be traced back to that moment in the garden. Instead of heeding God’s warning, they allowed themselves to become disobedient. For their action, they were cast out of the garden and had to toil and sweat for everything. They no longer were able to just enjoy the fruits of the garden. From that moment on, they had to work hard for everything. But, God already had a plan in place that would give the world hope in the midst of darkness. That plan came to us in the flesh and lived among us.

Hope is the one thing that keeps us going when there isn’t anything left and we are physically, mentally and spiritually drained. We literally have nothing left. There are a couple of things that we can do. We can choose to give up or we can turn to God. In Him, we find hope and strength to carry on even if it is only one day at a time.

When my mother was diagnosed with cancer, her world crashed down around her. Everything that she had worked so hard for was gone. However, she knew one thing that would get her through the tough days ahead, hope and her faith. She survived each treatment of chemo and each session of radiation only through her faith in God and her hope. I prayed for a miracle and hoped for remission. For a brief period of two months, she was in remission and the cancer that consumed her body was gone. However, when it returned, it returned with a vengeance and ultimately took her life. She remained faithful and full of hope all the way to the end.

One could argue that her hope didn’t work out for her. I would argue differently. Yes. She hoped for a miracle, but her hope also helped her take the next step in long, long days. There were many times when I took her to her chemo sessions. I witnessed firsthand what chemo does to the body. I am sure that medicine has made great strides and has lessened the side effects to a great extent. But, there are no guarantees when it comes to treatment. Relapses happen. 

As I struggled with my bone infection, I was told that there was a twenty-five percent chance that I would have another equally horrific or worse return of the infection. When I asked one of the twenty-five original doctors from the team who worked tirelessly to save me, why this had happened, he told me that I was the one in a million. He told me that things just happen. Down the hall from me was another person going through something similar. He wasn’t as bad as I was, but he was in a coma.

The noted English poet, translator, and satirist of the Enlightenment era, Alexander Pope, wrote in his poem, “An Essay on Man”, “Hope springs eternal in the human breast.”

God gave us the gift of hope. Hope keeps us going and looking to a brighter future. That brighter future is eternal life with the Father. No matter what we face here on earth, it can never take away our hope. Hope remains with us as long as we continue to hold on to it. We can keep it locked safely in our heart or we can just let it go flying away. 

It is solely up to us to decide how we are to live our lives. We can live in despair or we can live life in full measure knowing that we have a mansion in the sky with our Heavenly Father.

Paul, in chapter four of his epistle to the Galatians, writes, “But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children. And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, ‘Abba, Father.’ Now you are no longer a slave but God’s own child. And since you are his child, God has made you his heir.

The hope for all came to this dark world over 2,000 years ago in the form of a small child born to a virgin in humble surroundings. There was no coronation or ringing of bells. Those that were there were humble shepherds, common folk and kings. No matter what their station in life, they all came to worship the King of kings and Lord of lords. His humble birth and life were prophesied so long before his birth. It was faith and hope that kept many holding fast in search of that light would give the world a chance to walk in light rather than continue in darkness.

On this first Sunday of Advent and through the rest of this week, I ask you to think about the hope that was given to us out of love. The hope that fills our hearts and souls and gives us the strength to face every challenge and every downturn with the knowledge that there is a better place. Hope truly does spring eternal for us all when “we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 

By doing that, we can stand firm in His grace and weather the storms that beset us on all sides.

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

Proverbs Scripture Reading - Proverbs 28:9

Proverbs 28:9 Holman Christian Standard Bible

Anyone who turns his ear away from hearing the law—
even his prayer is detestable.

Morning Scripture Reading - Isaiah 55:3-5

Isaiah 55:3-5 Holman Christian Standard Bible

Pay attention and come to Me;
listen, so that you will live.
I will make an everlasting covenant with you,
the promises assured to David.
Since I have made him a witness to the peoples,
a leader and commander for the peoples,
so you will summon a nation you do not know,
and nations who do not know you will run to you.
For the Lord your God,
even the Holy One of Israel,
has glorified you.”

Saturday, November 26, 2022

Evening Scripture Reading - 2 Corinthians 9:10-11

2 Corinthians 9:10-11 Holman Christian Standard Bible

Now the One who provides seed for the sower and bread for food will provide and multiply your seed and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way for all generosity, which produces thanksgiving to God through us.

Psalms Scripture Reading - Psalm 51:10-13

Psalm 51:10-13 Holman Christian Standard Bible

God, create a clean heart for me
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not banish me from Your presence
or take Your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore the joy of Your salvation to me,
and give me a willing spirit.
Then I will teach the rebellious Your ways,
and sinners will return to You.

Proverbs Scripture Reading - Proverbs 28:8

Proverbs 28:8 Holman Christian Standard Bible

Whoever increases his wealth through excessive interest
collects it for one who is kind to the poor.

Morning Scripture Reading - 1 Chronicles 16:34

1 Chronicles 16:34 Holman Christian Standard Bible

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good;
His faithful love endures forever.

Friday, November 25, 2022

Evening Scripture Reading - Deuteronomy 30:19-20

Deuteronomy 30:19-20 Holman Christian Standard Bible

I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, love the Lord your God, obey Him, and remain faithful to Him. For He is your life, and He will prolong your life in the land the Lord swore to give to your fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”

Psalms Scripture Reading - Psalm 51:6-9

Psalm 51:6-9 Holman Christian Standard Bible

Surely You desire integrity in the inner self,
and You teach me wisdom deep within.
Purify me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones You have crushed rejoice.
Turn Your face away from my sins
and blot out all my guilt.

Preparing for the Birth of the Lord

In the simplest sense, advent means the arrival of a notable person, thing or event. For Christians, Advent, with a capital, "A", is a time of reflective preparation on the birth of the Jesus and what he came into the world to give each of us. 

Jesus was, is and always shall be the personification of God's love for us and His gift of salvation. When you begin to think about God's love for us and His gift, you begin to realize that we are unworthy of both. We live a life of sin and disobedience. Our path leads us nowhere. 

Then, a miracle happens. We hear the Word and are transformed from creatures of darkness to God's children. We walk in light and obey God's will. Our lives are dedicated to God and we worship Him daily. We live to serve and follow the teachings of His son, Christ Jesus.

Prepare your hearts and make him room as we celebrate the birth of our Lord, Savior and friend, Jesus.

John 1:14 New Living Translation

So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.

Proverbs Scripture Reading - Proverbs 28:7

Proverbs 28:7 Holman Christian Standard Bible

A discerning son keeps the law,
but a companion of gluttons humiliates his father.

Morning Scripture Reading - 1 Timothy 1:12-14

1 Timothy 1:12-14 Holman Christian Standard Bible

I give thanks to Christ Jesus our Lord who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, appointing me to the ministry— one who was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an arrogant man. But I received mercy because I acted out of ignorance in unbelief. And the grace of our Lord overflowed, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.

Thursday, November 24, 2022

Evening Scripture Reading - Philippians 4:6-7

Philippians 4:6-7 Holman Christian Standard Bible

Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Psalms Scripture Reading - Psalm 51:1-5

Psalm 51:1-5 Holman Christian Standard Bible

For the choir director. A Davidic psalm, when Nathan the prophet came to him after he had gone to Bathsheba.

Be gracious to me, God,
according to Your faithful love;
according to Your abundant compassion,
blot out my rebellion.
Wash away my guilt
and cleanse me from my sin.
For I am conscious of my rebellion,
and my sin is always before me.
Against You—You alone—I have sinned
and done this evil in Your sight.
So You are right when You pass sentence;
You are blameless when You judge.
Indeed, I was guilty when I was born;
I was sinful when my mother conceived me.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Psalm 136 New Living Translation

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good!
His faithful love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of gods.
His faithful love endures forever.
Give thanks to the Lord of lords.
His faithful love endures forever.

Give thanks to him who alone does mighty miracles.
His faithful love endures forever.
Give thanks to him who made the heavens so skillfully.
His faithful love endures forever.
Give thanks to him who placed the earth among the waters.
His faithful love endures forever.
Give thanks to him who made the heavenly lights—
His faithful love endures forever.
the sun to rule the day,
His faithful love endures forever.
and the moon and stars to rule the night.
His faithful love endures forever.

Give thanks to him who killed the firstborn of Egypt.
His faithful love endures forever.
He brought Israel out of Egypt.
His faithful love endures forever.
He acted with a strong hand and powerful arm.
His faithful love endures forever.
Give thanks to him who parted the Red Sea.
His faithful love endures forever.
He led Israel safely through,
His faithful love endures forever.
but he hurled Pharaoh and his army into the Red Sea.
His faithful love endures forever.
Give thanks to him who led his people through the wilderness.
His faithful love endures forever.

Give thanks to him who struck down mighty kings.
His faithful love endures forever.
He killed powerful kings—
His faithful love endures forever.
Sihon king of the Amorites,
His faithful love endures forever.
and Og king of Bashan.
His faithful love endures forever.
God gave the land of these kings as an inheritance—
His faithful love endures forever.
a special possession to his servant Israel.
His faithful love endures forever.

He remembered us in our weakness.
His faithful love endures forever.
He saved us from our enemies.
His faithful love endures forever.
He gives food to every living thing.
His faithful love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of heaven.
His faithful love endures forever.

Proverbs Scripture Reading - Proverbs 28:6

Proverbs 28:6 Holman Christian Standard Bible

Better a poor man who lives with integrity
than a rich man who distorts right and wrong.

Morning Scripture Reading - Daniel 6:25-28

Daniel 6:25-28 Holman Christian Standard Bible

Then King Darius wrote to those of every people, nation, and language who live in all the earth: “May your prosperity abound. I issue a decree that in all my royal dominion, people must tremble in fear before the God of Daniel:

For He is the living God,
and He endures forever;
His kingdom will never be destroyed,
and His dominion has no end.
He rescues and delivers;
He performs signs and wonders
in the heavens and on the earth,
for He has rescued Daniel
from the power of the lions.”

So Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian.

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Thanksgiving Eve Message - Dear God

Americans around the nation will celebrate Thanksgiving tomorrow. Like most families, we will have our traditional meal. Part of the celebration is reflecting on the many blessings we have received. Of those blessings, there is one that I always am so thankful for. That blessing is the power of prayer and that God listens and responds to our prayers.

Prayer and the ability to go to the Father, for me, is so very important to all Christians. When we need wisdom or guidance in our lives, God is always there to listen and respond to our prayers. Some will say that God doesn’t listen to prayers or they didn’t get what they asked for. In my life, I have had times when I questioned God’s response to my prayers. However, I soon realized that God’s answer to my prayer was the best answer.
We often believe that we know better and that what we ask for in our prayers is the best solution. When the MegaMillions and PowerBall lotteries were near or over a billion dollars, I saw a lot of people praying over their lottery tickets. Each one asking for God’s blessing of a winning ticket. I listened to some of their prayers and they promised God that they would give Him their tithe or donate some money to a charity. It sort of reminded me of bribery or something akin to quid pro quo. All the prayers seemed to include “Oh Lord, please give the winning ticket and I will…”

God is not a vending machine for blessings. God listens to the prayers of all of His children and wisely answers them. I know that some of you feel that God should always save the lives of loved ones. I have been there twice in my life. 

When my dad passed away, my prayer was for God to save His life. I wasn’t really praying. I was demanding that He do that. I continued to beg for the miracle, but it didn’t happen. Dad passed away. It took a lot of time for me to return to God and to accept His will in my life. I learned a lot about myself.

The second time came when my mom was in the ICU. She had fought cancer for almost three years. I prayed for a miracle, but my prayer ended with “Your will be done.” When her life was coming to an end, I again not only asked for a miracle, but also asked that if His will was for her to go home, that she go peacefully. God answered my prayer. He called her home to be with Him and His son, Jesus. She went to sleep and that was it. She passed peacefully. 

Too often we find ourselves demanding rather than praying. The other thing that we need to understand is that God speaks to us during prayer. Sometimes, we just string a bunch of words together and never give God a chance to truly speak to us. Prayer is more than a series of words that we string together to reach God’s ear. It is time that we spend with Him listening.

In the sixth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus explains what it means to pray, “When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. I tell you the truth, that is all the reward they will ever get. But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you. When you pray, don’t babble on and on as the Gentiles do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again. Don’t be like them, for your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him!

When people go on and on in their prayers, it sounds like they are trying to impress others with their elocution and show that they can write great prayers. Those types of prayers remind me of a safecracker trying to find the right combination to open a safe. People will try to string together the right words to get God’s attention. 

As a child of God, you always have His attention. It’s not what or how you say it; it’s all about what’s in your heart. If you truly accept God’s will in your life, leave your life to Him. He will never steer you wrong. The other thing is to always realize that God’s will comes first. He knows what is best for you.

The most important thing is that we listen. We should listen to God. Remember when God called out to Samuel? We should respond exactly as he did, “Speak, your servant is listening.

Prayer is one of the most important things we can do as Christians. God listens to His children. That truth is certain. However, we need to realize that prayer is bidirectional. God speaks to us, and that, in and of itself, is a blessing to truly be thankful for. 

In Psalm One-Hundred Fifteen, the psalmist writes, “Their idols are merely things of silver and gold, shaped by human hands. They have mouths but cannot speak, and eyes but cannot see.
They have ears but cannot hear, and noses but cannot smell. They have hands but cannot feel, and feet but cannot walk, and throats but cannot make a sound. And those who make idols are just like them, as are all who trust in them.

Idols don’t hear prayers. We serve a living God who listens and responds to our prayers. Be thankful that God cares that much for you. He hears every prayer. Be thankful for the fact that God talks to us. Instead of going on and on, say the same thing that Samuel said and be silent. Listen to God speak to your heart. 

If you do this and accept His will in your life, you can rest assured that He hears your prayers. With that truth firmly planted in your heart, you can stand firm in His grace.

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

Evening Scripture Reading - 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 Holman Christian Standard Bible

Rejoice always!
Pray constantly.
Give thanks in everything,
for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Psalms Scripture Reading - Psalm 50:22-23

Psalm 50:22-23 Holman Christian Standard Bible

“Understand this, you who forget God,
or I will tear you apart,
and there will be no one to rescue you.
Whoever sacrifices a thank offering honors Me,
and whoever orders his conduct,
I will show him the salvation of God.”

Mid-Week Message - Give Thanks

 "Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good!  His faithful love endures forever."  Psalm 107:1 (NLT)

The year was 1621.  Those who had made the pilgrimage to what is now the United States of America, had a great feast that lasted three days.  It was a celebration of thanksgiving to the Lord for His provision and protection which followed a time of extreme hardship in which many had died.  None of these precious souls had envisioned the difficulties they would face before they set sail and I often wonder how those who survived were able to show such gratitude after all they endured. 

The holiday of Thanksgiving that we observe each year has become a day that is engulfed in activity that causes tensions to run high.  Rather than a day of praise and gratitude, it is spent exhausting ourselves attempting to fulfill expectations of family and guests.  After the food has been served and the kitchen has been cleaned, men gather around the television and women rush out to shop in stores that now open early to capitalize on Christmas dollars yet to be spent.  

Before we know it, midnight as come and the day intended for giving thanks has ended for another year.  Recipes made once a year are filed away and all thoughts turn to the next big day of festivities.  In all of the hustle and bustle, how much time was actually given to the Lord in appreciation for His great love and care?  

Aside from the necessary prayer at the table tomorrow, will we spend any private time with Him reflecting back on how He has sustained us this year?  Will our hearts be consumed with gratitude or will our focus be on the troubles of the moment?  Whatever our struggles are today will likely still be struggles tomorrow and will be vying for our attention.  Will we choose Him over worry and chaos? 

We are the Lord's first priority.   He is always present.  Always listening.  Always within our reach.  We may not be able to see Him physically with our eyes, but He is always active in our lives.  Every blessing that we receive comes directly from His hands.  He has promised to take care of our needs and to guide us through each step we need to take.  No matter what arises in our lives, His power is greater, His love all-encompassing and He is worthy of our praise.  

This year has been full of ups and downs, some of them have knocked me off my feet, which I am sure you have experienced as well.  However, the one thing we have always been able to count on is that we have a Father that can be depended upon to pick us up and dust us off and help us take the next step, no matter how hard that step might be.  Let's spend time with Him tomorrow letting Him know how much we love and appreciate Him.  Without Him, there would be nothing to celebrate.  

Have a blessed Thanksgiving.

Proverbs Scripture Reading - Proverbs 28:5

Proverbs 28:5 Holman Christian Standard Bible

Evil men do not understand justice,
but those who seek the Lord understand everything.

Morning Scripture Reading - 1 Timothy 4:4-5

1 Timothy 4:4-5 Holman Christian Standard Bible

For everything created by God is good, and nothing should be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, since it is sanctified by the word of God and by prayer.

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Evening Scripture Reading - Jeremiah 30:18-22

Jeremiah 30:18-22 Holman Christian Standard Bible

This is what the Lord says:

I will certainly restore the fortunes of Jacob’s tents
and show compassion on his dwellings.
Every city will be rebuilt on its mound;
every citadel will stand on its proper site.
Thanksgiving will come out of them,
a sound of celebration.
I will multiply them, and they will not decrease;
I will honor them, and they will not be insignificant.
His children will be as in past days;
his congregation will be established in My presence.
I will punish all his oppressors.
Jacob’s leader will be one of them;
his ruler will issue from him.
I will invite him to Me, and he will approach Me,
for who would otherwise risk his life to approach Me?
This is the Lord’s declaration.
You will be My people,
and I will be your God.

Psalms Scripture Reading - Psalm 50:16-21

Psalm 50:16-21 Holman Christian Standard Bible

But God says to the wicked:
“What right do you have to recite My statutes
and to take My covenant on your lips?
You hate instruction
and turn your back on My words.
When you see a thief,
you make friends with him,
and you associate with adulterers.
You unleash your mouth for evil
and harness your tongue for deceit.
You sit, maligning your brother,
slandering your mother’s son.
You have done these things, and I kept silent;
you thought I was just like you.
But I will rebuke you
and lay out the case before you.

Proverbs Scripture Reading - Proverbs 28:4

Proverbs 28:4 Holman Christian Standard Bible

Those who reject the law praise the wicked,
but those who keep the law battle against them.

Morning Scripture Reading - 2 Corinthians 4:13-15

2 Corinthians 4:13-15 Holman Christian Standard Bible

And since we have the same spirit of faith in keeping with what is written, I believed, therefore I spoke, we also believe, and therefore speak. We know that the One who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and present us with you. Indeed, everything is for your benefit, so that grace, extended through more and more people, may cause thanksgiving to increase to God’s glory.

Monday, November 21, 2022

Evening Scripture Reading - James 1:16-18

James 1:16-18 Holman Christian Standard Bible

Don’t be deceived, my dearly loved brothers. Every generous act and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights; with Him there is no variation or shadow cast by turning. By His own choice, He gave us a new birth by the message of truth so that we would be the firstfruits of His creatures.

Psalms Scripture Reading - Psalm 50:7-15

Psalm 50:7-15 Holman Christian Standard Bible

“Listen, My people, and I will speak;
I will testify against you, Israel.
I am God, your God.
I do not rebuke you for your sacrifices
or for your burnt offerings,
which are continually before Me.
I will not accept a bull from your household
or male goats from your pens,
for every animal of the forest is Mine,
the cattle on a thousand hills.
I know every bird of the mountains,
and the creatures of the field are Mine.
If I were hungry, I would not tell you,
for the world and everything in it is Mine.
Do I eat the flesh of bulls
or drink the blood of goats?
Sacrifice a thank offering to God,
and pay your vows to the Most High.
Call on Me in a day of trouble;
I will rescue you, and you will honor Me.”

Proverbs Scripture Reading - Proverbs 28:3

Proverbs 28:3 Holman Christian Standard Bible

A destitute leader who oppresses the poor
is like a driving rain that leaves no food.

Morning Scripture Reading - Colossians 4:2

Colossians 4:2 Holman Christian Standard Bible

Devote yourselves to prayer; stay alert in it with thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 20, 2022

Evening Scripture Reading - Isaiah 58:6-7

Isaiah 58:6-7 Holman Christian Standard Bible

Isn’t the fast I choose:
To break the chains of wickedness,
to untie the ropes of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free,
and to tear off every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
to bring the poor and homeless into your house,
to clothe the naked when you see him,
and not to ignore your own flesh and blood?

Psalms Scripture Reading - Psalm 50:1-6

Psalm 50:1-6 Holman Christian Standard Bible

A psalm of Asaph.

Yahweh, the God of gods speaks;
He summons the earth from east to west.
From Zion, the perfection of beauty,
God appears in radiance.
Our God is coming; He will not be silent!
Devouring fire precedes Him,
and a storm rages around Him.
On high, He summons heaven and earth
in order to judge His people.
“Gather My faithful ones to Me,
those who made a covenant with Me by sacrifice.”
The heavens proclaim His righteousness,
for God is the Judge. Selah

Sunday Praise & Worship Message - Love and Help One Another

As we continue our tradition of the five kernels of corn, the fourth one reminds us to love and help one another. In today’s day and age, it is often the most difficult thing to do. Instead of getting to know our neighbors, we have opted to spend our time behind computer monitors and chat with one another. It seems like the day of meeting new people at a coffee shop, local diner or courthouse bench has gone the way of the dodo bird and the bench seat in cars. 

As I was growing up in a small town in Texas, every Wednesday the local newspaper went on sale at three o’clock. People would arrive early to sit and talk. Some would go to the local drug store for a cup of coffee and meet with friends and neighbors. When the paper finally came out, people walked up to the counter and put a dime into a small cardboard box and took a copy. People would sit back down on benches around the courthouse square and just read articles to each other or continue conversations. 

Life, back then, was simple and very easy-going. Neighbors were there to help you when you needed it most. Everyone shared with each other and would invite others to dinner or a barbecue. Churches had wonderful potlucks and all were invited to come together in fellowship and worship of the Father. 

Yes, my friends, life was a lot simpler and easier. We could all slow down and enjoy life knowing that others were there to lend a hand when you needed it the most. Maybe my memories are a bit nostalgic and colored a bit, but those memories, if embellished, are very close to the truth and the reality I experienced. We truly loved our friends and our neighbors.

Jesus tells us the same thing. We are to love one another no matter what. We are to show one another compassion and be there through thick or thin. Love shouldn’t come with exceptions and fine print that would prevent us from doing what is right and proper for all of us.

When Jesus shared the Passover meal with his disciples, he gave them one more commandment to live by. In chapter thirteen of John’s gospel, Jesus tells them, “So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.

When we show the world the love we have for others, we live in accordance with Jesus' one last commandment. By loving one another, we are telling the world that we are his disciples and that we live our lives in accordance with Jesus' example and life. We should not isolate ourselves from each other. We are bound together by one immutable truth. We were all created in the image of God and given a soul when He breathed into us. 

We share so much as a species and we are so capable of loving one another. I have seen people, who were once strangers, come together to share and to help others in times of joy and also in tragedy. We are capable of lifting up individuals in prayer and in love.

I have personally seen people in cancer treatment centers share blankets and offer to get a complete stranger food or a magazine. Our hearts are so full of love, but, for some reason, we withhold it and we don’t share it with others. It is easy to love someone you know, but quite a different thing to love a stranger, but Jesus tells us to love all.

In chapter five of the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus tells us, “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven.

It is so easy to do so much for a family member, friend or neighbor, but quite a different thing when it comes to our enemies. But, Jesus tells us to look beyond our impressions and how we are treated. We are to always show love to all no matter what.

When Jesus was asked by the religious leaders about the greatest commandment, he, in chapter twenty-two of Matthew’s gospel, said, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.

When you think about it, the Bible teaches the most important laws of loving God and loving one another. The Bible has many lessons in it, but love is the most important. We are to love God totally and completely. But, we are to also love one another and treat others the same way we desire to be treated. We are to always show our love to the world. It is the greatest way of giving our story of how a Savior came from glory to die upon a cross for those who walked in darkness and now walk in the newness of life.

So, as you sit down to enjoy Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings, remember the lesson of the fourth kernel of corn and show the world the love in your heart, mind and soul for the Father and the love you have for those around you be they family, friend, neighbor or enemy. When you do that, you not only reflect God’s love into a world of darkness, but you are also able to stand firm in His grace.  

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

Proverbs Scripture Reading - Proverbs 28:2

Proverbs 28:2 Holman Christian Standard Bible

When a land is in rebellion, it has many rulers,
but with a discerning and knowledgeable person, it endures.

Morning Scripture Reading - 1 Corinthians 1:4-9

1 Corinthians 1:4-9 Holman Christian Standard Bible

I always thank my God for you because of God’s grace given to you in Christ Jesus, that by Him you were enriched in everything—in all speech and all knowledge. In this way, the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you, so that you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ. He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you will be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful; you were called by Him into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Saturday, November 19, 2022

Evening Scripture Reading - 2 Chronicles 5:11-14

2 Chronicles 5:11-14 Holman Christian Standard Bible

Now all the priests who were present had consecrated themselves regardless of their divisions. When the priests came out of the holy place, the Levitical singers dressed in fine linen and carrying cymbals, harps, and lyres were standing east of the altar, and with them were 120 priests blowing trumpets. The Levitical singers were descendants of Asaph, Heman, and Jeduthun and their sons and relatives. The trumpeters and singers joined together to praise and thank the Lord with one voice. They raised their voices, accompanied by trumpets, cymbals, and musical instruments, in praise to the Lord:

For He is good;
His faithful love endures forever.

The temple, the Lord’s temple, was filled with a cloud. And because of the cloud, the priests were not able to continue ministering, for the glory of the Lord filled God’s temple.

Psalms Scripture Reading - Psalm 49:16-20

Psalm 49:16-20 Holman Christian Standard Bible

Do not be afraid when a man gets rich,
when the wealth of his house increases.
For when he dies, he will take nothing at all;
his wealth will not follow him down.
Though he praises himself during his lifetime—
and people praise you when you do well for yourself—
he will go to the generation of his fathers;
they will never see the light.
A man with valuable possessions
but without understanding
is like the animals that perish.

Proverbs Scripture Reading - Proverbs 28:1

Proverbs 28:1 Holman Christian Standard Bible

The wicked flee when no one is pursuing them,
but the righteous are as bold as a lion.

Morning Scripture Reading - Colossians 3:15

Colossians 3:15 Holman Christian Standard Bible

And let the peace of the Messiah, to which you were also called in one body, control your hearts. Be thankful.

Friday, November 18, 2022

Evening Scripture Reading - Amos 5:4-7

Amos 5:4-7 Holman Christian Standard Bible

For the Lord says to the house of Israel:

Seek Me and live!
Do not seek Bethel
or go to Gilgal
or journey to Beer-sheba,
for Gilgal will certainly go into exile,
and Bethel will come to nothing.
Seek Yahweh and live,
or He will spread like fire
throughout the house of Joseph;
it will consume everything,
with no one at Bethel to extinguish it.
Those who turn justice into wormwood
throw righteousness to the ground.

Psalms Scripture Reading - Psalm 49:13-15

Psalm 49:13-15 Holman Christian Standard Bible

This is the way of those who are arrogant,
and of their followers,
who approve of their words.Selah
Like sheep they are headed for Sheol;
Death will shepherd them.
The upright will rule over them in the morning,
and their form will waste away in Sheol,
far from their lofty abode.
But God will redeem my life
from the power of Sheol,
for He will take me. Selah

Proverbs Scripture Reading - Proverbs 27:23-27

Proverbs 27:23-27 Holman Christian Standard Bible

Know well the condition of your flock,
and pay attention to your herds,
for wealth is not forever;
not even a crown lasts for all time.
When hay is removed and new growth appears
and the grain from the hills is gathered in,
lambs will provide your clothing,
and goats, the price of a field;
there will be enough goat’s milk for your food—
food for your household
and nourishment for your female servants.

Morning Scripture Reading - Genesis 17:1-2

Genesis 17:1-2 Holman Christian Standard Bible

When Abram was 99 years old, the Lord appeared to him, saying, “I am God Almighty. Live in My presence and be blameless. I will establish My covenant between Me and you, and I will multiply you greatly.”

Thursday, November 17, 2022

Evening Scripture Reading - Deuteronomy 29:29

Deuteronomy 29:29 Holman Christian Standard Bible

The hidden things belong to the Lord our God, but the revealed things belong to us and our children forever, so that we may follow all the words of this law.

Psalms Scripture Reading - Psalm 49:10-12

Psalm 49:10-12 Holman Christian Standard Bible

For one can see that wise men die;
foolish and stupid men also pass away.
Then they leave their wealth to others.
Their graves are their eternal homes,
their homes from generation to generation,
though they have named estates after themselves.
But despite his assets, man will not last;
he is like the animals that perish.

Proverbs Scripture Reading - Proverbs 27:22

Proverbs 27:22 Holman Christian Standard Bible

Though you grind a fool
in a mortar with a pestle along with grain,
you will not separate his foolishness from him.

Morning Scripture Reading - Romans 7:14-17

Romans 7:14-17 Holman Christian Standard Bible

For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am made out of flesh, sold into sin’s power. For I do not understand what I am doing, because I do not practice what I want to do, but I do what I hate. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree with the law that it is good. So now I am no longer the one doing it, but it is sin living in me.

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Evening Scripture Reading - 1 Thessalonians 2:9-12

1 Thessalonians 2:9-12 Holman Christian Standard Bible

For you remember our labor and hardship, brothers. Working night and day so that we would not burden any of you, we preached God’s gospel to you. You are witnesses, and so is God, of how devoutly, righteously, and blamelessly we conducted ourselves with you believers. As you know, like a father with his own children, we encouraged, comforted, and implored each one of you to walk worthy of God, who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.

Psalms Scripture Reading - Psalm 49:5-9

Psalm 49:5-9 Holman Christian Standard Bible

Why should I fear in times of trouble?
The iniquity of my foes surrounds me.
They trust in their wealth
and boast of their abundant riches.
Yet these cannot redeem a person
or pay his ransom to God—
since the price of redeeming him is too costly,
one should forever stop trying—
so that he may live forever
and not see the Pit.

Mid-Week Message - Life and Death

 "The day one dies is better than the day he is born!  It is better to spend your time at funerals than at festivals.  For you are going to die, and it is a good thing to think about it while there is still time.  Sorrow is better than laughter, for sadness has a refining influence on us.  Yes, a wise man thinks much of death, while the fool thinks only of having a good time now."  Ecclesiastes 7:1b-4  (TLB)

Night before last, my little bird passed away.  I knew her time was near so I was holding her and keeping her warm, making sure she knew she was loved.  I didn't want her to die alone in her cage.  She was a little fussy and I knew that if she was in the dark she would calm down so I laid her down on my chest and covered her with a blanket, head and all.  After about thirty minutes she started trying to flap her wings.  She came out from under the blanket and I caught her in my hands and she was gone.  My husband said, "It's like she just flew away."  I was reminded once again how quickly life can be over.   

When my father died in 2007 I thought I wasn't going to be able to go on.  He had been my greatest supporter throughout my life.  He was the one I turned to for advice and understanding.  He wasn't a perfect man, but the Lord couldn't have chosen a better man to be my dad.  I can remember every second of that day and I doubt seriously that I will ever forget.  His death deeply impacted me and changed the way I thought of life.  The person I counted on to always be there suddenly wasn't and I found myself considering the difference of how death is viewed on earth versus how it is viewed in Heaven.

When someone dear to us is no longer with us on this planet, it can be devastating.  We find ourselves clinging to their last words, their favorite material possessions, songs that remind us of them and anything else that makes us feel close to them.  The last thing we want to think about is that we won't see them again.  As we go through the stages of grief we experience denial and anger long before we reach acceptance.  We cry more tears than we thought possible and beg the Lord to explain to us why they had to go.  The pain of losing a loved one causes our hearts to physically ache and our minds to question life.  

However, what is perceived as an ending here is a homecoming in Heaven.  No longer is there any separation between our loved ones and Jesus. It is the culmination of our creation!  We see life as temporary, but our Creator made us to be eternal beings.  Life doesn't end at death.  It continues where we were meant to be all along.  In Heaven we will be free from illness, from sorrow and from danger.  Joy will rule our hearts as we witness in person the magnificence of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  We will join with the Heavenly choir in singing praises.  Any infirmities that we had before will be gone forever and we will be able to place our hand in the hand of the One who bore the penalties for our sin and made it all possible.  

Here we grieve but there they celebrate.  That is why today's verse admonishes us to ponder the end of our earthly lives.  Death is simply the closing of one door and the opening of a much better one.  Life doesn't cease, it is perfected.  Our grief is for ourselves because we will miss those who go to Heaven before us.  One day, though, not too long in the future, that door will open for us as well and we will step across the Heaven's threshold and wrap our arms around our Savior.

Proverbs Scripture Reading - Proverbs 27:21

Proverbs 27:21 Holman Christian Standard Bible

A crucible for silver, and a smelter for gold,
and a man for the words of his praise.

Morning Scripture Reading - 1 Chronicles 16:34

1 Chronicles 16:34 Holman Christian Standard Bible

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good;
His faithful love endures forever.

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Evening Scripture Reading - Isaiah 60:3

Isaiah 60:3 Holman Christian Standard Bible

Nations will come to your light,
and kings to the brightness of your radiance.

Psalms Scripture Reading - Psalm 49:1-4

Psalm 49:1-4 Holman Christian Standard Bible

For the choir director. A psalm of the sons of Korah.

Hear this, all you peoples;
listen, all who inhabit the world,
both low and high,
rich and poor together.
My mouth speaks wisdom;
my heart’s meditation brings understanding.
I turn my ear to a proverb;
I explain my riddle with a lyre.

Proverbs Scripture Reading - Proverbs 27:20

Proverbs 27:20 Holman Christian Standard Bible

Sheol and Abaddon are never satisfied,
and people’s eyes are never satisfied.