December 22 – Behind the Christmas Card – Comparison

Read Genesis 3:1-13

“So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate . . . (Gen. 3:6).”

It could be the story of nearly every Christmas experience that ever was. We can’t see the amazing of all that we have because we’re too busy comparing. Each time we think we have the best, we find someone else’s bigger, better, more enticing version of it. Maybe it’s a gift for a child’s teacher or the lights outside our homes. Perhaps it’s the family Christmas movie night made less perfect by a friend’s post on Facebook of her picture-perfect family baking cookies and stringing popcorn before taking a long walk together with big mugs of hot cocoa. No matter how much we have been given, when we turn our focus from gratitude for what we have to realizing what we’re missing, we open the door to discontent. “Comparison,” Theodore Roosevelt said, “is the thief of joy.”

The story traces back to the beginning of time. Eve and Adam and Almighty God walked together in the Garden until Satan showed up and pointed out what they did not have. They couldn’t see all that God had given them anymore because their attention had turned to what He had withheld. And perfect intimacy with the Giver of all good things was broken when that terrible thief named comparison snuck in.

Perhaps it’s never more prevalent than at Christmastime. We have so much, yet there is always someone with more. If we let our focus go there, we will miss the true joy of the incredible gifts we have.

Don’t let that be your experience this year. Instead, remember what God did when He gave you this life, this grace, this beautiful moment, this Christmas season.

Bria Wasson

November 30 – By Faith or By Sight

Uncertainty.

We all face some level of uncertainty, don’t we? Life is filled with uncertain moments like…when you get that text from a boss or significant other that simply says, “We need to talk,” or the moment a test or exam is handed out in class and the only thing you’re certain of is your name. No doubt the phrase “uncertain times” has become a bit of a catch phrase to describe our current reality. No matter if times are certain or uncertain, there are only 2 ways to live life…one is by faith and the other is by sight.

Last year, I took my sons to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. We enjoyed our visit, but one experience stood out to us. It’s an exhibit called “A Game for Life” that features you sitting in a locker room, listening to virtual holograms of famous coaches like Vince Lombardi and players like Joe Namath. It’s a picture of what it’s like to live by faith in a world consumed by sight. When you live by faith, you can fully follow God even when life is uncertain.

In Hebrews 11, the author writes more about today’s central character than anyone else. While he lived thousands of years ago, I think you’ll be able to relate to some of his defining moments. His name is Abraham and he is considered the Father of Faith, because faith defined his defining moments. He faced many tests and they were turning points where he discovered that great opportunity is often hidden in the middle of great uncertainty. God makes a promise to him that is recorded in the opening of the Bible, “The Lord had said to Abram, ‘Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.’  So Abram went, as the Lord had told him…” (Genesis 12:1-4a)

Abraham’s response to God’s promise shows us 3 ways to fully follow God when times are uncertain:

Leave the past behind, look ahead with anticipation and live today trusting God.

Which one do you struggle with the most? We’ll take a look into each one of these in this week’s posts.

Nick Cleveland

October 25 – Say What Now? – “Leave your Country, Family and Land and I’ll Give You a Nation, Name and Blessing”

Read Genesis 12:1-5

Abraham’s story is one of my favorites, maybe because of the trust exchange between Abraham and God. 

I’m so glad I’ve been re-reading Abraham’s story recently. 

Knowing and believing the Kingdom perspective and knowing that Jesus changes everything helps my journey to sustain my trust in the Lord. Jake and I believe in a loving God who only has the best in mind for us, our family and our children. He is a God who loves us more than we will ever know. 

However, it is not always easy to trust. 

If you read Abraham’s story and think “he must be a super spiritual guy to be able to trust the Lord with all He asked Abraham to do”, the answer is no. Abraham was a normal guy just like you and me. He knew the Lord, He knew the power that God processed and He trusted Him because of his personal relationship with God. 

I think the difference between those who trust the Lord and those who do not is the question, “How well do you know God?”. 

Knowledge doesn’t equal intimacy and lack of intimacy equals lack of trust. 

I compare this to our closest relationship. For me, this is Jake. I don’t trust him just because of what I know about him, I trust him because I know him. I know him better than most. I see things most do not and vice versa. There is a trust exchange much like between Abraham and the Lord. 

When you look at your life, can you say that you fully and intimately know the Lord? In that intimacy with Jesus comes the trust exchange.

Do you have that? 

Charles Swindoll’s book “So You Want to Be Like Christ” dives into the notion that knowledge does not equal intimacy. He says in chapter three, while focusing on slowing our pace through silence and solitude, that “If you refuse to be still, if you do not seek times for silence and solitude, you may gain some knowledge about God without knowing Him at all”.

Abraham knew the Lord intimately and, therefore, the depth of trust was built. Asking Abraham to leave his home may have been scary and filled with uncertainty, but it was nothing compared to knowing and trusting his Lord and following after Him. 

Where are you? Are you filled with a depth of intimacy that allows for a trust exchange to grow or are you focused on knowledge and pride of pedigree?

As you read through Abraham’s story, put yourself in his shoes and see what your choice would be.

Kelly Lawson

October 22 – Say What Now? – “Build an Ark and I’ll Bring the Flood”

Read Genesis 9:6-22

We often see Noah’s ark depicted as a cartoon type of boat with a giraffe’s head sticking out of the top and an elephant squeezed onto the deck with a lion standing beside. It was really hard to imagine how large the ark would have been, let alone how 8 people could have possibly taken care of that many animals, feeding them and keeping them from killing each other. 

The details leave us with more questions than answers. How could such a vehicle be designed and constructed without modern equipment or computers? How could all of the animals fit in there?

Two summers ago, we took our grandkids to see the replica of the Ark that is on display in Kentucky and it all started to make sense. It is a sight to behold and, once you are inside, all your questions will disappear. 

We don’t know how much knowledge Noah had about ship building, but looking at this replica, one knows that, no matter how smart Noah was, there had to be divine intervention. However, building the ship isn’t the most important lesson learned from the story.  Noah’s willingness to say, “Yes!” to God, even when it seemed like an impossible task, should be the model for all of us.

Although the story of Noah centers around the Ark as it was a true masterpiece of man’s making, what was inside – eight righteous people – was God’s masterpiece that He wanted to preserve.

I can’t help thinking what it must have been like for the people who were not in the ark. I can’t even imagine how horrible it was for them to be drowning literally because of their sin.  They had no hope of being rescued. No chance of a passing lifeboat to take them aboard. Not even any chance of grabbing ahold of a tree or higher ground to climb up on!

No hope of survival.

That is the way some people feel today.  They are drowning in their whirlpool of one sin after another.  Maybe they have hardened their hearts and closed their ears to anything that people have said to try to help them.  It might be someone in a far-off land or your next-door neighbor.  Maybe it is someone in your own family. Just because a person has a smile on their face doesn’t mean that they aren’t dying inside.  They may have lost hope and can’t see a bright future for themselves.  There have been so many people dying lately of an overdose of drugs or committing suicide. How very sad that is!

We, who are believers in Christ, are in His lifeboat and should be on a search and rescue mission.  Instead of turning our backs on people who are drowning in sin, we need to be seeking and reaching out to them. Like Noah, when God shows us who He wants us to talk to or befriend, we should without hesitation say, “Yes!” It takes a lot of courage to put yourself out there, but, just like Noah, God will be there to guide you and give you the strength and knowledge you need. Are you willing to reach out your hand, introduce the lost to the real first responder, Jesus, and pull them into the boat of eternal life?

Their life depends on it because, when the rain comes, it’s too late.

Pat Arnold

May 12 – Defining Moments – Jacob

Read Genesis 32:22-32

Have you ever been touched by God?  I was recently in a bizarre car accident that could’ve killed me. But God protected me. The accident resulted in two hip replacements and my kneecap that was broken in 8 places. I find it difficult to actually know if God touched me or if this is just something that happened by chance (see Ecclesiastes 9:11).

I do not think it was chance. I can’t prove it. But I have recovered from all of that and have been blessed by God.

Your two hips are pretty durable. You probably know somebody who has arthritis of the hip. They can’t walk very well and they limp. They need a walker or a cane or a wheelchair to get around and can’t run around. Arthritis is one of the most common causes of pain in the hip today.

Jacob was a man who probably did not have arthritis. But he was touched by God. But not in a way that we may think that God touches someone. Jacob was touched and he never walked the same again. He limped but he also thrived. To thrive today means to lose yourself and follow the upside down kingdom of Jesus Christ. You have the opportunity to thrive every day by following Jesus Christ, despite pain such as arthritis and other events that can knock you down.

Jacob was a man who wrestled with God, who took the form of an angel. Jacob must have been a strong wrestler because this angel could not overpower him. So, God, in the form of an angel, disabled his hip.

Perhaps the angel was able to defeat Jacob, but his goal was not to defeat him but to bless him.

Have you been blessed in a similar way?

We wrestle against the desires of the flesh, against sin and the influences of the world, so this passage of scripture (v 22-32) is something that we can all relate to. God wrestled with Jacob in order to transform him, to bring him to a place of submission so that Jacob could no longer run from his problems.

What challenges are you walking through currently? Do you believe that God can use it for His glory? Maybe when you get knocked down – that is an opportunity that God has given you to thrive and change perspective. You get knocked down. Get up. You’re still standing! (Psalm 40:2).

Tom Weckesser

May 11 – Defining Moments – Abraham

Read Genesis 12:1-20

Here is a man, who is well in his years and probably established in his hometown with his wife and an occupation. Seemingly, out of nowhere, He is asked by the Lord to move somewhere that the Lord is going to wait to tell him where.

“The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.”

Here is Abram, a follower of God Almighty who has this trust relationship and he is asked to leave all he knows behind him, all he has claimed to be and is.

How would you respond?

Do you think you would freak out? Go? Stay calm? Ask a ton of questions?

Being completely transparent, I would freak out and ask a ton of questions. That’s my MO. I am a high communicator and a Type A planner. So, my flesh does not do well with “the unknown”.

Does anyone do well with the unknown?

There is a defining moment in this story. It’s not when the Lord commands Abram to get up and go and explains the promises to Abram and his family. The defining moment is in verse 4;

“So, Abram went, as the Lord had told him…”

I remember so many times in my walk with the Lord where He asked me to trust Him without seeing the “where” or the “why” and the “how”.

I am living in that moment now.

As I am writing this, I am sitting in the hospital with Jake, my husband. Some medical things have taken place that need all the attention, monitoring and answers. Just this morning, a close friend asked me how I was doing. My reply was that I feel like my faith is being tested and that I am in a constant state of striving for surrender and trusting that the Lord sees it all.

James 1 continues to replay in my heart and mind:

“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind.”

“Consider it all joy” … joy, the testing of our faith. Do you know why God would want me to consider this joy? Well, my definition of joy is “God not only knows about our problems but cares about them”. So, in this, speaking of considering this testing to be joyous is knowing that I can trust in the God who sees my unknown.

He sees it, allows it and has much bigger plans for it than I could ever imagine.

Abram’s defining moment was trusting in the Lord to know what was to come and walk in a trust exchange. This wouldn’t be the first time the Lord tests Abram’s faith, it wouldn’t be the last time Abraham had to walk in complete surrender, knowing that the Lord sees what is to come and just lean on Him.

Where would you say your faith is in these defining moments? Do you cling to the Lord? Do you question the happenings?

Do you surrender, joyously?

Kelly Lawson

May 10 – Defining Moments – Enoch & Noah

Read Genesis 5:1-32

“LeBron, Tebow, Adel, Brady”.

Just say the name and everyone knows who you are talking about. Their talents have made them household names. That is great for the here and now, but what about eternity?

In the Bible, there are 2 names of men whose fame isn’t because of anything they could do but who they listened to.

Enoch was a man in the direct ancestral line from Adam to Jesus.   His name is hidden in a long list of “begats.”  So and so begat so and so; he lived “x” number of years AND THEN HE DIED! Over and over the same thing is said of generation after generation of men.    

Then there is Enoch.  

“Enoch walked faithfully with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.

What?  He didn’t die?  God took him away?   In Hebrews 11:5-6 we read:

“By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death: He could not be found, because God had taken him away.”

So, out of all of the people on Earth at the time, Enoch was chosen by God to not die but to be taken away. 

What did he do?  Did he have some hidden talent?

No! He walked faithfully with God.  He spent quality time with God…. he heard God’s still small voice and did what God wanted him to do.

Enoch’s great grandson, Noah, was a friend of God’s also. Even though Enoch wasn’t around when Noah was born, surely Noah had been told about his great-grandfather and how he had “walked with God”.

What a legacy Noah was given!  We can only guess how much harassment Noah faced as he set about building a huge boat for years! But Noah’s mind wasn’t focused on what was going on around him, he was focused on God and what HE commanded Noah to do. 

You may not ever be able to shoot 3-pointers in a basketball game or stand center stage before an adoring crowd, but you can be like Enoch and Noah by walking and talking WITH God, not ignoring and talking AT God.

The refrain of an old hymn goes like this:

He walks with me, and He talks with me,

And He tells me I am His own,

And the joy we share as we tarry there,

None other has ever known.

Do you walk with God?  Are your thoughts His thoughts?

Are the words that come out of your mouth His words?

Are your actions for His glory instead of yours?

What example are you setting for your children and grandchildren?  Is God only on your mind and lips when you are in trouble or at church?  Do you walk with Him daily, delighting in His company and He in yours?

There is no time like the present to be in His presence. 

Pat Arnold

May 9 – Defining Moments – Cain & Abel

Read Genesis 4:1-26

When Cain killed Abel in Genesis 4, the story was captured for all of history to see the depressed spirit of Cain’s behavior as he responded in comparison to his brother starting with their offerings to God.  The comparison struggle is real for many people, and I once heard Pastor Nick say (when talking about social media), that “comparison is the thief of joy”.  The human element of the tension felt from comparison can lead to dark places and, unfortunately for Cain, one could say that his defining moment was when he killed his brother.  However, I think it is something different that can be described as “prominence vs. significance” (something I once heard a guy named Doug say).

He described it like this: Prominence does not equal significance, but, for many people, they think it does.  Discovering what is significant for God is often confused by our desire to do something for Him that is prominent.  This can be especially damaging, if we fall for this trap, when we consider our relationship with God.

When you consider Genesis 4, Cain’s offering to God is indeed significant. For starters, Cain gave an offering to God (4:3), and it can be inferred that what he brought was part of the “first” from his crop (4:4).  That fact alone bears much significance in that, for followers of God, to give is to sacrifice, and to give from the “first fruits” (Prov 3:9) is honoring to God.  However, as the Bible describes, God had “no regard” (4:4 NASV) for Cain’s offering in comparison to the kind of offering that Abel brought forth. Was Abel’s offering more pleasing to God due to the cost of meat instead of the cost of vegetables? One could think, “Hey, lamb chops are more expensive than carrots so I can see why God is unimpressed by Cain’s offering.”  We see what is prominent, the monetary value. 

However, the significance is a matter of the heart.

To better understand this idea, don’t miss the “and” in Gen 4:5:

“Abel, on his part, also brought the firstlings of his flock and their fat portions”.

Abel’s offering was an offering of significance that was pleasing to God as it reflected the heart (indicated by bringing the extra fat as an offering too). It reminds me of when Jesus was speaking to the Pharisees (Mat 9:13) and tells them, “Go and learn the meaning of this, ‘I desire mercy not sacrifice’ (NIV).

A defining moment for me personally, was when I discovered God’s desire for my significance to be deeply connected as the result of His work in my heart.  It was only then, when I began to realize that what I bring to Him (whether offering, worship, or work) is not valued by the prominence measured by people, but by significance defined by Him.

What about you? What does your struggle with comparison look like? In what way do you need to zero into the work God is doing in your life and allow that to be enough?

What do you need to release to Him in this moment?

Joe Rubino 

December 23 – Christmas: The Promise Fulfilled – Fulfilled Prophecy

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Christmas:
The Promise Fulfilled

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Read Genesis 3:15, Habakkuk 3:13, Isaiah 7:14, 9:6-7, 11:1 and Micah 5:2

Fulfilled Prophecy 

A promise was made long ago, revealed through the prophets and dating back to the fall of mankind in the Garden of Eden. 

A Savior would be born. He’d be born to repair the damage that mankind inflicted on himself because of the sin that entered into the world through Adam and Eve. He’d be born to be the only way of salvation!

The Prophets foretold that His name would be Emanuel “God With Us”, and He’d be born in a small almost obscure town named Bethlehem. The Messiah of the world was to come to us born of a virgin to save mankind from its sin and separation from God. The Messiah was God’s own Son. Long before all these things would take place God said they would happen; revealed to us and all creation that our God would be with us. God always shows Himself faithful as His Word is true and comes to life in a very real fashion. Just as He spoke light into the darkness and it happened, He spoke to the hearts of the prophets through His Holy Word to begin to reveal the plan He had in place. 

We know that roughly two thousand years ago God’s One and Only Son was sent to us fulfilling the promises that the prophecy of the Old Testament stated would take place. He was born in Bethlehem of a virgin named Mary. 

Our God is with us!

As we enter the Christmas season we should have a sense of awe and reverence in how God fulfilled everything according to His Word. He keeps His Word!

My Prayer is that we’ll continue to be in awe of these incredible truths and that we’ll instill the truths of God’s revelation to our family, friends, or whomever God so chooses to place in our path. Especially during Christmas time!

When we celebrate His birth may we all share the true meaning behind what the world considers as just another holiday. May the truth revealed in prophecy be communicated and known through us.

Praise God for revealing Himself and that we can have the true honor and privilege of worshiping Jesus and celebrate His entrance into the world during Christmas. Let us all have a true “Birthday” celebration for our Savior this year and every year for the Lord our God fulfilled His promise through His Son Jesus Christ. 

Questions To Get Started With: 

  • What do the scriptures I just read teach me regarding how Christ’s birth fulfilled the Old Testament Prophecies? 
  • How do God’s Fulfilled Promises build my faith in the trustworthiness of scripture?
  • How do these truths change my understanding and perspective on celebrating Christmas?
  • What can I do the share the true meaning of Christmas this year?

December 16 – Family Christmas – Family Feud

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Family Christmas

Don’t forget to share your comments and takeaways every day!

Family Feud 

By Danny Saavedra

“Now then, please let your servant remain here as my lord’s slave in place of the boy . . .” – Genesis 44:33 (NIV)

The Bible is full of stories of authentic people. God didn’t shy away from showing our “heroes” of faith in their darkest hours. Why? So we can see people with real shortcomings and struggles; people like us.

One great example is found in Israel’s family. In this story, we see Joseph—loved by his father and hated by his brothers—sold into slavery. That’s right, because his brothers were so jealous and filled with malice, they lied about Joseph’s death after selling him as a slave. 

But what happened? Joseph prospered! He went from son to slave to prisoner to steward to ultimately the prime minister of Egypt. Why? Because he honored and served the Lord. 

Joseph became top dog in Egypt, helping people through a prolonged famine. Eventually, he gets a visit from his brothers—except for Benjamin, the youngest. They came because the famine had reached them, and they heard about the surplus in Egypt. Though Joseph recognized his brothers, they didn’t recognize him, so he pretended to be a stranger. Testing them so he could see if they had changed, he tells his brothers they can’t leave Egypt unless they bring their youngest brother there. So, he kept one of his brothers and sent the rest to get Benjamin. 

They went back to their father, but Israel refused to let Benjamin go. Knowing his family’s need and repentant from what they’d done to Joseph, Judah said, “Send the boy along with me and we will go at once, so that we and you and our children may live and not die. I myself will guarantee his safety; you can hold me personally responsible for him. If I do not bring him back to you and set him here before you, I will bear the blame before you all my life.” (Genesis 43:8–9 NIV). With that, Israel finally agrees.

They brought him to Joseph. Before they left, Joseph had his steward put a silver cup into Benjamin’s bag to make it seem as though he’d stolen it. This was their final test. When he decreed that only Benjamin would have to stay as his servant, Judah offered to take his brother’s place in prison. Judah’s actions paint a picture of what was to come through his descendant, Jesus, who came to pay a debt He didn’t owe because we owed a debt we couldn’t pay! 

This selfless act also had a major impact on Joseph. Hearing Judah’s compassion and willingness to take his brother’s place, Joseph could no longer contain himself and reveals himself to his brothers. In Genesis 45:5 (NIV), he says, “Do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you.” At last, after several years, we see a family reunited. 

The Christmas season marks the perfect time for reconciliation. You see, Jesus came to reconcile us to God, to bring forgiveness and restoration. And the story of Israel’s children shows us that it’s never too late for reconciliation and forgiveness, for healing in our lives and in our families. Are there broken relationships in your life? Maybe old friends, siblings, or a parent? Just like he did for Joseph and his brothers, God can do the same for you. All you have to do is take the first step!