Tag Archives: Jesus

Unwanted Gifts

Have you ever received a gift you didn’t want?  An ugly Christmas sweater? Chia pet? Another toaster (to add to your growing collection)? Broken down car?

Unexpected.  Unwanted.  Not on your wish list!

Sometimes it’s gift wrap that throws us off.

Consider the Bible purchased at a second-hand store.  The buyer got quite a surprise when they opened it. From the inscription inside, it was originally intended as graduation gift for someone’s granddaughter. Unwanted, the girl never cracked it open. If she had, she would have found an envelope tucked inside, containing cash for a new car.  (OUCH!)

Our family received a “gift” this year.  Unexpected.  Ultimately, unwanted.  Wrapped in stunning paper, topped with an intricate bow, we opened it with great expectation.  When we did, we found ourselves so confused that we had to double-check the tag to make sure our name was on it.

The unexpected gift God plopped down in our lap would take us away from family and dear friends, away from a home we loved and remove us from a community unlike any other I’ve ever experienced. Exchanging big skies and mountains for lots and lots and lots of trees and a big city, a move from the Northwest to the Southeast was not something we requested.  But like that girl who received the Bible for graduation, we realize we have a choice – to open the book and flip through the pages and uncover the hidden gifts, or ungratefully shove it into a drawer until we find an appropriate time to unload it.

Over the years, I’ve come to know this about our heavenly Father and gifts: his gifts are not only good, but extravagant expressions of his love for us.  Not only that, but he knows what you need before you know to ask.

Consider the gift God sent to Bethlehem 2,000 years ago.  A baby born to a poor family was not what Jewish leaders expected for their Messiah.  Thirty years passed, and they grew so irritated with this gift – Jesus – that they found a way (so they thought) to get rid of him. And they crucified him.  An extravagant gift from heaven, nailed to a tree.  Refusing to unpack the gift, they missed out on grace revealed, hope and forgiveness of sin.  

I still don’t know why this cross-country “gift” appeared in my life at this moment. But because I know God is involved, he has something good, I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be, and he wants to show me something new about himself, myself and our relationship.

Sometimes, that’s all we need to know.

Let’s Pray:

Father, life is filled with unexpected gifts.  Life may feel out of control but you can redeem anything for your perfect purpose and plan.  You have us exactly where we need to be.  Help us, today, in whatever situation we face and don’t understand, to trust you on this one.  Because when we trust that you can use anything for good, we find hope. Amen.

Ironing it Out:

I asked the question last week on my Facebook page, but I’ll ask it here, again.  What is the worst present you ever received? Or, did you ever get a gift you didn’t want but ended up loving?

Now, think about your present life circumstances.  Sometimes, it’s hard to get past a situation and see the gift on the other side.  What are you having trouble seeing as a “gift?” How could God possibly use it for good?  How might (or is) God reveal himself to you through it?

A little over 10 years ago, I was physically attacked while on a business trip.  At the time, I was also 8 weeks pregnant with our first child. It was frightening.  I suffered from post-traumatic stress for quite some time afterward. And while I would never consider what happened to me as a “gift,” what happened in the hours that followed certainly was.   As I sat in the ER waiting for the doctor, God led me to this verse: Psalm 27:1-3. The gift was a promise that God will never leave me.  He fights for me – even in my darkest hours. He is my hope. My enemies will fall because he loves me.

I still don’t understand why it was allowed to happen, but I’m thankful for the gift I received on the other side.

Do you have a story you can share and encourage someone today?  Whether it’s here or somewhere else, I hope you will.

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Filed under Gifts, Hope, Thankfulness

One word God will NEVER say

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

Philippians 4:8 

The lies were hurtful. I listened to them through the bedroom door.  “Not good enough at (fill in the blank).  Nobody likes me.  Mom loves my brother more than me.” And on  they went…  Have you heard any of those before?

My heart ached beyond words as I listened to the lies my child was feeding into his soul.  I’d had enough of it, but a gentle whisper in my soul told me to tread carefully…this was not just a pity party – I was walking into a spiritual battle.  

I opened the door.  

The conversation was frank and to the point. “Son, I absolutely will not tolerate dishonesty in this house!” His eyes, big as saucers, stared back at me. It was clear he was confused. “Especially when you are being dishonest with yourself - Quit lying to yourself!” I demanded.

My take on his little pity party clearly surprised him — lying to himself??? Is that possible?

But we do it all the time, don’t we?

I opened the Bible to Psalm 139 and asked him to read aloud.  Stopping at key verses, we talked about what they meant.

Verses 1-6: How well does God know you?  Is there anything he doesn’t know about you?

Verse 14: What does “wonderful” mean?  What does it mean that you were “wonderfully made?”

Verses 15-16: What does it mean to you that God thought about making

you well before you breathed your first breath? Do you think he ever says “Oops?” Why not?

And so it went. Together, we wrote down 10 things he believed about himself that weren’t true, and then replaced them with truth and bible verses to memorize. One truth in particular stuck with my son…God thought about him for a long time and has a purpose for his life…a purpose only he can fulfill. And…one more thing…

God never says “Oops!”

It was a breakthrough moment for my son. The experience also caused me to consider how it must pain our Creator when we lie to ourselves about the gifts He’s given us and our worth. Sometimes we allow the deceiver to twist our identity into something our Father never intended it to be…and then we believe it.

Dishonesty to ourselves is a great offense to the Lord.

Let’s Pray:

Heavenly Father, I confess that not only have I believed lies, but lied to myself.  Forgive me.  You created me for more than this.  Lies are designed to sell me short, stifle my growth and prevent me from impacting others for you in a positive way.  Today please help me identify lies I’ve believed and replace them with your truth. Amen

Ironing it out:

What lies are you telling yourself today?  

I’m terrible at (insert skill – sewing, reading, painting, running, parenting, etc).  I’m not pretty. I hate my (insert part of your body).  I’m not very smart.  I am not good at prayer. I will never be able to (insert achievement). I’m not a good Christian. I’m not worthy.  I am unloved. I’m worthless.  God could never use me because _____.  I don’t have a very good testimony.

Spend some time today in prayer, asking God to reveal the lies you’ve been feeding  your soul.  Then, write them down and pray about them.  If you have a spouse or close friend you trust enough, do the exercise together.  Then pray and ask God to help you see 10 things that are true about yourself. Mediate on Philippians 4:8 – “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Read Psalm 139 every day for a month and pick verses to memorize.  When you begin to hear those old lies creep back into your thinking, immediately cut them down with the truth of God’s word.

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Filed under Dishonesty, Truth

You are deeply loved!

A favorite verse to start your Monday on the right track! Spend time today reading Psalm 139. Click here to read the passage in the Message version. Tune in tomorrow to find out one word God will NEVER say!

Spend time reading Psalm 139 today.   Photo (c) www.theironingboard.com All rights reserved.

Spend time reading Psalm 139 today.
Photo (c) http://www.theironingboard.org All rights reserved.

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Filed under love, Personal Reflection, Photo Card, Sovereignty of God, Truth

Copyright © 2011 The Zondervan Corporation

Copyright © 2011 The Zondervan Corporation

 Just a little “Friday Funny” to go along with this week’s devotional. Stop worrying, friend! He’s got this! Have a blessed weekend!

3 Comments

August 30, 2013 · 6:45 AM

An extraORDINARY gift

What did you open today?  A small fuzzy box with beautiful jewels tucked inside?  Maybe a larger box with more bells and whistles than you know what to do with?  Or, an envelope with promises of a warm destination to steal away the winter blues?  No matter how much you love that present,  there’s one more.  Did you find it?

Amid the piles of torn wrapping paper and glittery bows, a gift more expensive, exceptional and exquisite than any other waits for you.  It fits you perfectly – was tailor-made.

Photo credit: Duwe, 2012 (copyright 2012)

Photo credit: Duwe, 2012 (copyright 2012)

Don’t be fooled by the ordinary wrapping of linen strips…nothing compares to this extraordinary gift…no, nothing.

“And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger…”
Luke 2:7

Ever wonder why Luke included this detail of “swaddling cloths” in his account of the Christmas story? Certainly, we can make a “feel-good” connection to our tradition of the beautifully wrapped presents we give one another at Christmas.   But I don’t think that’s exactly what God had in mind when he inspired the Gospel writer to include it.  No, this simple story element foreshadows Jesus’ ultimate life-mission – and the greatest historical event in all history.

“Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen.” John 19:40a

After Jesus died on the cross, his body was literally swaddled in grave cloths.

Jesus entered this world as God’s greatest gift to us, was bound in swaddling cloths by man, and unwrapped by God himself – for us.

“Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves…” Luke 24:12a

Hallelujah!   A child was born this day!

Hallelujah! Christ is risen!

Let’s Pray:
Oh Father!  Thank you for your gift today!  It’s perfect.  I know I’m completely unworthy of such an extraordinary gift, but in complete humility, I both accept it and give thanks.  Jesus, help me to live a life worthy of such a gift – never taking for granted the tremendous price you paid, for me.  Amen

Ironing it out:

Have you ever received an extravagant gift you had difficulty accepting? Or, perhaps you’ve been on the other side as the giver of a heartfelt gift that someone flat out refused (or tried to refuse) to accept.  Maybe you were left with a gift you had to return feeling ashamed or deeply disappointed. 

God’s gift in Jesus is more than extravagant, exquisite, and extraordinary, but before you try to refuse this one, there is no return policy available.  The gift was paid in full, swaddled at birth – for you. 

Spend time thanking God today for this gift of love and life.  What can you adjust in your life to demonstrate your deep gratitude?

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Filed under advent, Christmas, Gratitude, Salvation

extraORDINARY cost

 And she gave birth to her Son, her Firstborn; and she wrapped Him in swaddling clothes and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room or place for them in the inn.   Luke 2:7 (NIV)

Photo Credit: www.visualbiblealive.com"A stone manger from Solomon's stables."

Photo Credit: www.visualbiblealive.com
“A stone manger from Solomon’s stables.”

“And (she) laid him in a manger…”  Mary and Joseph were resourceful people.  The stable conditions were hardly their first, second or third choice given their situation, but it would have to do.  Joseph looked around for a good place to lay the baby so they both could rest.

That’s when he saw it.  He hated that it was a feeding trough for donkeys – the ultimate unclean animal according to their Jewish faith.  It was so dirty, but he had little choice.

Using an old rag, Joseph quietly scraped off some rodent excrement and cleaned out the manger.  Covering the base with clean, fresh hay, he wondered why God would allow this.

Watching Mary place the baby in the manger, Joseph wondered if he’d done something wrong. None of this made sense.

As puzzling as the scene appeared to the human eye, the tapestry God was weaving made perfect sense from above.

The filthy conditions of that manger accurately reflect our sin-filled hearts without Christ. Soiled, beyond reproach.  

But nothing is beyond the redemptive reach of God.  When we open our hearts to Jesus, hope enters in as his glorious light illuminates and cleanses us with his grace and forgiveness.  This was the Good News the angel spoke of when he told the shepherds:

“…for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people. For to you is born this day in the town of David a Savior, Who is Christ (the Messiah) the Lord!” Luke 2:10-11 (AMP)

Leaving the comforts of heaven, Jesus held nothing back when he arrived in that grimy, smelly, and yes, ordinary manger.  He came, giving of his whole self, only to be rejected by the people he came to save and nailed to a Roman cross 33 years later.  The cost was enormous…it was…extraordinary.

Let’s pray:

Lord Jesus, we can sanitize the image of that manger all we want, but the true reflection of its filthy condition is only as far away as my own heart. The manger is a humbling reminder of where I’ve come from, and the tremendous price you paid for my life.  Thank you. Amen

Ironing it out:

At Christmas we look for ways to give of ourselves to others.  We help and bless friends, family and the less fortunate through donations of money, time and gifts which represent only a small portion of us or our resources.  We then return to our comfortable homes with over-stocked kitchens; soft, warm beds; clean running water; and televisions.

Jesus’ gift to us at Christmas couldn’t be more opposite.  He gave us everything, holding back nothing, when he exchanged heaven for a manger.

Spend time today considering Jesus’ enormous sacrifice.  There was no going back until the ultimate price – his life – had been paid.  He loves you that much! 

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Filed under advent, Christmas, Generosity, Gifts, Salvation

An extraORDINARY moment

Photo Courtesy of Corel<br /><br /> (Israel)<br /><br /> (from Bible Photos of the Holy Land - Biblesoft)

Photo Courtesy of Bible Photos of the Holy Land – Biblesoft

ONE-thousand years before Jesus’ birth, a young boy tended sheep in the hills outside a small, practically unknown town called Bethlehem.  He was brave and courageous.  Reputed to have killed lions and bears with his own hands in an effort to protect his flock, David would do anything for those sheep – often putting his own life in harm’s way for them.

It was a typical afternoon, nothing special.  Keeping a keen eye on the sheep, David sat on a rock singing praises and playing his harp.  Suddenly, he heard a frantic voice calling him.

“David! David! Your father needs you to go home immediately.  I’ll watch the sheep for you. You must hurry!”

Without delay, David hustled home, where earlier that afternoon, his father Jesse had paraded his seven older brothers in front of an old prophet named Samuel.  Once the last of the seven was presented, Samuel asked:

“Is this it? Are there no more sons?”

“Well, yes, there’s the runt. But he’s out tending the sheep.”

Samuel ordered Jesse, “Go get him. We’re not moving from this spot until he’s here.” 1 Samuel 16:11 (The Message)

When David arrived, out of breath, smelling of sheep mixed with sweat and in need of a bath, he found his father, seven brothers and Samuel anxiously awaiting him.

He was brought in, the very picture of health—bright-eyed, good-looking.

God said, “Up on your feet! Anoint him! This is the one.”

 Samuel took his flask of oil and anointed him, with his brothers standing around watching…         1 Samuel 16:12-13 (The Message)

From ordinary hills, outside an ordinary little town, God called an insignificant young shepherd boy – who had been passed over by his own father – to become Israel’s most extraordinary king.

One-thousand years later, God chose these same hills to reveal his most extraordinary good news, this time to a group of ordinary shepherds.

 And behold, an angel of the Lord stood by them, and the glory of the Lord flashed and shone all about them, and they were terribly frightened.

But the angel said to them, Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people.

For to you is born this day in the town of David a Savior, Who is Christ (the Messiah) the Lord!         Luke 2: 9-11 (Amplified)

Perhaps for the first time in their career, these diligent shepherds determined to leave their flock alone, in God’s care.  Following the angel’s instructions they left their posts.

In darkness, they walked through the city gates of Bethlehem in search of the true light of the world.

Let’s Pray:

Most gracious heavenly Father, these passages today remind me how life changes in mere moments.  Life can seem so ordinary and boring, but little do we know you are just waiting for that exact moment to take us on the ride of our life!  Lord, help me today run – not walk – when you call.  Help me to earnestly seek after you – even when it may come with great risk. Amen

Ironing in out:

David ran. The shepherds sought. When God calls us out of the ordinary, to experience the extraordinary, it always requires a response and action.

If God is calling you to something today, what’s stopping you?  What risk frightens the socks off your toes? 

Are you willing to trust him?  David and the shepherds learned first-hand God offers great reward when we submit in humble obedience. What are you missing?

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Filed under advent, Christmas, Hope, Surrender, Trust

An extraORDINARY little town

BethlehemChristmas Day, 1898

Bethlehem
Christmas Day, 1898

But you, Bethlehem, David’s country,
the runt of the litter—
From you will come the leader
who will shepherd-rule Israel.
He’ll be no upstart, no pretender.
His family tree is ancient and distinguished.

(Micah 5:2 The Message Version)

Some 500 years before Christ, Bethlehem was home to a scant 123 people, according to Ezra 2:21. That’s smaller than my neighborhood! It took a full five full centuries for this little hill town’s population to grow by just a few hundred more.  So, by the time Mary and Joseph arrived on the scene, scholars estimate the population at 300-1,000 people.

Little.

Bethlehem has a significant Old Testament history as the burial-place of Jacob’s beloved wife, Rachel (Gen. 35:19), and the town from which Israel’s greatest king, David, came. But it never really “grew up.”

The Hebrew word translated as “runt of the litter” in the Message translation of Micah 5:2, see above, (“little” in most other translations) is tsa`iyr. It means:

tsa`iyr:

1) little, insignificant, young

a) little, insignificant

b) insignificant, mean

c) young, younger, youngest

Bethlehem was not just an ordinary small townit was considered insignificant.  Nobody expected much from Bethlehem, and that is what made it the perfect place for the most extraordinary person to begin life on earth!

God did not choose Bethlehem because of its wealth or success.  He did not choose Bethlehem because of its “booming” population or cultural achievements.

No.

He chose Bethlehem because it was ordinary.  He chose it because it would magnify his great mercy, grace and love.

He chose Bethlehem for us.

Let’s Pray:

Father, centuries before Jesus’ birth, Bethlehem almost missed another great leader in a shepherd boy named David.  That young man went on to become Israel’s greatest king.  Our world is not conditioned to look for greatness in insignificant places. I’m humbled to be called your child, but my heart also aches today for others who have not yet opened their hearts to you.  Lord, today I specifically pray for _______________.  Help me to be a light of your love, mercy and grace to him/her.  Perhaps this Christmas he/she will see the true meaning of Bethlehem and experience the depth of your love for them. Amen

Ironing it out:

Bethlehem literally means “House of Bread” in the Hebrew.  In John 6:32-33, Jesus said “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

In John 6:48, Jesus reveals “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger…”

How can you make your ordinary home a “house of bread” this Christmas, where all who come will have the opportunity to meet our King Jesus, the bread of life?

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Filed under advent, Average, Christmas, redemption, Salvation, Seeking God, Sovereignty of God

An extraORDINARY Name

Wordle: Jesus

“But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.  She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

Matthew 1:20-21

Baby naming can be one of among the most challenging tasks in parenting.  It doesn’t matter if it’s your first or tenth child, most parents care a great deal about “the name!”  We look for names we hope the child will (someday) like.  Names that exude strength.  Names that are pretty.  Names that sound good. Names not easily made fun of.  A special name that will set the child apart.

Two-thousand years ago, if you were going for unique, the name “Jesus” would not be on your list.  It was a fine Jewish name, but common none-the-less.

Imagine Joseph and Mary’s surprise when the angel Gabriel instructed each of them individually to name their child – conceived under anything-but-ordinary circumstances – one of the most common names in town.   I wonder if God had Gabriel reiterate the name to Joseph, in part, because Mary wondered if she heard that part right. Certainly God wouldn’t choose such a run-of-the-mill name for the Savior of his people!

But what man had made ordinary was about to be redeemed.

Until his earthly ministry began, the Son of God would live an ordinary life, working an ordinary job, identifying with ordinary people who knew him by an ordinary name: Jesus!

Identifying with us all – on common earthly terms – Jesus demonstrated his gift of salvation was not just for the elite.  It was not just for the poorest of poor.  It was – and is – a gift for us all: common man.

Ἰησοῦς 

               Iēsous: Jesus = “Jehovah is salvation”

Jesus came to save the very people he created!  Jehovah is salvation! 

God intentionally chose an ordinary name for his extraordinary Son, so he could fulfill it unlike any other – in the common skin of mankind.  

Let’s Pray:

Oh my Lord! You spare no details, puzzling as they may be at  the time.  No, not one element is missed!  I will never be able to wrap my head around the fact that you gave up heaven – with all its glory, beauty and imperfections – to wear the common skin of mankind and save us from our sins.  Your love is limitless.  Thank you! Amen.

Ironing it Out:

It’s ironic, isn’t it?  What was once a common name has become uncommon today because it is so highly esteemed!  

Take a moment and soak in the details of an extraordinary life lived through the ordinary. Then, spend some time in prayer and thanksgiving, praising the Lord for his remarkable love for you yesterday, today and tomorrow. 

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Filed under advent, Christmas, Gratitude, redemption, Salvation

extraORDINARY Wedding Plans

It was an exciting time in life for Joseph.  He was busy preparing a home for his bride-to-be who would return from a long visit with her cousin Elizabeth any day.

Mary!   She was such a sweet, kind, faithful, and compassionate girl.  Everybody knew it was a match made in heaven!  Joseph dreamed of their future:  the meals they would share, the children they would raise, the family trips to Jerusalem for Passover…   The days without her in Nazareth were long.

When Mary finally returned, Joseph’s joy quickly turned to anguish when he saw her.  Imagine the shock when he realized she was…pregnant! Dreams shattered before his eyes as he tried to make sense of the situation.

Joseph knew this was not his child.  He could not fathom that Mary would be unfaithful, and indeed she claimed just the opposite!  What happened?  None of it made sense.

Joseph struggled with his options.  Friends likely counseled him to save his name.  “Divorce her!”  “She deserves to be stoned,” some likely advised. But one problem existed.  He still loved her. So he decided to divorce her – quietly. 

But God had other plans and sent the angel Gabriel to visit Joseph in a dream:

“Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.  She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:20-21)

The Gospel account tells us Joseph responded without hesitation.

“When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.” (Matthew 1:24)

The Wedding of Mary and Joseph by Giotto di Bondone, c. 1303-1305

The Wedding of Mary and Joseph
by Giotto di Bondone, c. 1303-1305

Can you imagine Joseph’s friends surprise when he boldly approached Mary’s home that morning?

There were no wedding bells.  No parties. No big community celebrations or parades.  Without any pomp and circumstance, Mary went home with Joseph.  Husband and wife. And God breathed life back into a seemingly dead relationship.

It was not the typical Jewish wedding celebration Joseph or Mary had planned.  No, this was extraordinary. The pair had become living sacrifices for God’s greatest purpose in them, and his miraculous plan of redemption in his son, Jesus Christ.  

Let’s Pray:

Lord Jesus, in this era of entitlement, it might be crushing to think about all the fun Joseph and Mary “missed” on their wedding day.  It was not a day of celebration in the village.  The circumstances surrounding your birth did not exude worldly joy, but rather, sorrow.  Thank you that you turn our sorrow into joy, and our mourning into dancing. You redeem what we perceive as lost and make all things new. Help us to trust you today  when our plans go awry, and believe that you have an extraORDINARY future for us!  Amen.

Ironing it Out:

What is the first thing you do when faced with a life-changing crisis?  Do you talk to friends?  Call a parent or other trusted advisor? At what point do you seek God’s advice?  When God points you in another direction – even after making your decision - are you willing to believe as Joseph did, and adjust course?    

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Filed under advent, Believer, Christmas, Faithfulness, God is loving AND just, Seeking God, Sovereignty of God, Surrender