Devotions Archives

Christmas Devotion

Dear Ladies: I prepared this devotion a few years ago. Feel free to use it.

It’s that time of year again. Christmas is here again… of Christmas. Is it the gifts under the tree, the lights in the windows, the cards in the mail, turkey dinners with family and friends, snow in the yard, and memories of the music on the radios and in the stores that we hear…but will it really seem like Christmas for everyone.

For some people this year will be a time of sorrow because they might have lost someone who was very dear to them. For others, this will be a miserable time because they don’t have money to buy gifts for their family. Yet for others, it will be a gloomy time for many sons and daughters who are serving in the military in a far-away place and wishing they were home.

If people only think that Christmas is gifts, lights, cards, snow, and memories, they will be sadly disillusioned and disappointed if they don’t experience those things.

Isaiah prophesied in Isaiah 7:14 Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. Hundreds of years after Isaiah died, his prophecy was fulfilled through Mary and Joseph. Can you imagine Matthew’s excitement when he wrote, Matthew 1:22-23 Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.

The people who lived during Isaiah’s time and Matthew’s time experienced many of the same things we are experiencing today…political upheaval, natural disasters, and failed leadership. There are preachers and godly Christians still trying to tell people about a Messiah who will give them peace, but just like people who lived during the Old Testament and New Testament periods, people today rebel and don’t want God telling them what to do. Malachi 3:12-16

But the prophets faithfully proclaimed God’s words. Those who listened and believed were encouraged. They knew that no matter how bad things got, God had a plan. In the prophecies, they saw God’s sovereignty and His faithfulness. They understood that one day God would send a child to save them from their sins.

As we read the Bible today, it’s like we’re standing on the top of a mountain looking down at the past and the future of God’s people. We are able to see God’s plan unfolding right before our eyes.

1. Wars and rumors of wars. (Matthew 24:6,7) Many countries are building up massive arsenals of conventional and nuclear weapons. In addition to potential nuclear war, we have war we face every day with terrorists.

2. Famines, Pestilence, Earthquakes (Matthew 24:7,8) And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. Food supplies are low in many countries because of floods and droughts. Infectious diseases are spreading faster around the globe than ever before. Earthquakes are increasing everywhere.

3. Deceivers who claim to follow Jesus…” Mt. 24:4,5 At the end of the Church Age, many people will be teaching things that are not consistent with the Bible and will deceive many. Churches are falling away from sound Biblical teachings. The goal of most churches today is to increase church attendance. This is put ahead of the authority of the Bible. The Emerging Church has become so pervasive that most of them tolerate abortion (murder), fornication (premarital sex, adultery, and homosexuality) and almost any other violation of God’s law

4. People of Israel return to their land…Amos 9:13-15 The LORD tells His people … I will bring my people back to My land from other nations…they shall build the waste cities, and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards…they shall also make gardens, and eat the fruit of them. And I will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be pulled up out of their land which I have given them. (Ezekiel 37:21,22)

During the last 130 years Jews from 108 nations have migrated to the land of Israel. Israel has successfully defended itself against numerous Arab attacks. It has turned a desert into an agricultural success, and its technology industry exports cutting edge innovations. Today, Israel’s population is over 7 million. In 2018, it will celebrate its 70th anniversary…many of her Arab neighbors hate Israel and want to “wipe it her the map”.

5. Increased wickedness and love of pleasure. (Matthew 24:12) Today people are living primarily for themselves and their own happiness. The idea of denying themselves, taking up their crosses daily and following Jesus (Luke 9:23) is a foreign concept. What TV and movies show as “normal” has affected our values. Couples live together outside marriage. This leads to unwanted pregnancies and blood sacrifice (murder) of millions of innocent, helpless children by abortion.

6. Strong delusion…God will send a strong delusion and people will believe lies. (2 Th. 2:11)

The primary focus of the deception is through the media (the Prince of the Power of the Air) Deceptive ideas promoted on TV and movies keep people from believing the Gospel. The media lulls many people into a false sense of right and wrong.

7. One world government… Daniel 2:40. God will send a strong delusion. Most religions expect a savior or a man who will bring world peace, justice, and unity. Muslims are waiting for the Mahdi or the 12th Imam. Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has stated that his mandate is to pave the way for the coming of this Islamic messiah. Buddhists are waiting for the Buddha of compassion, Maitreya, or a world teacher and unifier, the 5th and coming Buddha of the present era. Hindus are waiting for their completer and savior, Kalki, the name of Vishnu in his tenth and last avatar. According to the Usborne Encyclopedia of World Religions, “The tenth and last avatar has not yet appeared.

But what will happen? A false prophet will emerge to assist the world ruler and claim to be their savior. (Revelation 13:11-15)

8. Technology will control the world… Revelation 13:16-18) Today, think how you react when you lose your debit or credit cards…you panic! People will be convinced that it will be much safer to receive an implantable RFID chip or some form of high tech tattoo on the right hand or forehead than carry around cards or cash.

Because we see these things happening, we know God’s truth, and we understand His plan for the future, we should make this season even more special. Here are a few ideas to make this season more special.

• Avoid making this season commercial, expensive, hectic, pressured, impersonal, and materialistic.

• Spend time making memories with your families. It is sad that today many old traditions have been replaced with moneymaking events. Years ago it was more important to play games and sing with their families than to take them to sporting events or shopping trips to decorated malls.

• Don’t think you have to make Christmas an elaborate and expensive production. The world wants you to think that if you spend more and do more, you will get more satisfaction.

A survey was taken by talking with children, parents, and child specialists and the survey revealed that children really three basic things for Christmas:

1. Relaxed and loving time with the family. The greatest need of all children at Christmas–just like at any time of the year–is the assurance that they are very much wanted and loved by their parents.
2. Balanced attitude toward gifts. Watch any child plow through a huge stack of gifts on Christmas morning, and then look he will look around the room…it this all? He acts as if he has lost his best friend. Why? Because all his focus has been on getting gifts.
3. An evenly paced holiday season. Today, the commercial interests pack up their special decorations and holiday music on December 26 because there is no more chance to sell. One mother found her daughter crying in the closet on Christmas Day–just after her daughter had opened all the gifts that she had requested. The mother asked her daughter, “What’s the matter?” Her little girl replied, “If this is all there is to Christmas, why did I have to wait so long?”

Here are a few ideas to help make your Christmas more relaxed and evenly-paced.

Hold off doing important family traditions until a week or so before Christmas. Dec 10: Do not get your Christmas music out until Dec. 10.
Dec 15: Put a wreath on your front door
Dec 20: Put up your tree
Dec 25: Save your favorite traditions for this day

Strong family traditions are important because they give children the opportunity to do something they enjoy year after year. Believe it or not, they give children great comfort and security. When everything is their lives seem disrupted by the holiday season–school is out, their parents are extra-busy, and everyday routines are not the same…children enjoy having well-defined traditions to hold on to. Traditions let them know exactly how the season will unfold and bring back memories of past Christmases. Here are a few ideas.

FAMILY TRADITIONS
1. First one out of bed puts on the Christmas music
2. Prepare the same holiday food your family really enjoys
3. Display your Christmas cards
4. Make your Christmas gifts
5. Play games, sing carols by candlelight, pray together, and just have fun!
6. Make a recording of each year activities. Have a child sing, play a song on the piano, or read a verse or quote a poem. Play recording back the next year.
7. Divide Christmas gifts by givers instead of receivers. One at a time each giver gets to take a gift to its receiver. This custom keeps the focus on giving instead of receiving.
8. Read Luke’s accounts of the Christmas story.
9. Request the name of a person in a nursing home without family or adopt a needy family.
10. On Jan 1 place your basket of Christmas cards on the table. Before or after each meal, a family member draws out a card and offers a prayer for that person or family. You could even drop a note to the family saying, “Thank you for your Christmas card. We read it today, March 6, and we prayed for you.
11. Be a witness to others by inviting adult friends and children’s friends to your home to share a December evening of dinner or dessert. Plan songs, games, and read Scripture. (To give others an example of Christ’s love and the atmosphere of love in your home)
12. Cut your own tree.
14. Hang Joy stockings during the month of December. Each family member puts his thoughts, prayers, and love notes in the “joy stockings”. On Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, pull the notes out and read them.

The Christmas Pledge

Believing in the wonder and beauty of Christ’s birth, I commit myself to the following:
1. To find people who are less fortunate than my immediate family and give to those who truly need my gifts
2. To express my love for family and friends in more direct ways that presents
3. To rededicate myself to the spiritual growth of my family
4. To examine my holiday activities in light of the true spirit of Christmas
5. To initiate one act of peacemaking within my circle of family and friends

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Are We Living Intentionally?

Whether we are old or young, we all have to deal with our own character defects. It might be our bitterness, our selfishness, or our pride. When we were young, we tried to cover up those character defects with our makeup and clothes, our natural abilities, or our personalities. As we get older, those outward things fade away. If we have not sanctified those defects in our younger years, those defects will become more pronounced and visible during our senior years.

There are days when I see my own short comings, temptations, and struggles and wonder to myself…will I make it to the end of my life more sanctified than when I started?

I look around and see other pastors’ wives and Christian leaders who gave up living the Christian life. Because of selfishness, greed, and thoughts, “I deserve better than this.” They start searching outside their marriages, families, and ministries for easier and more prosperous lives…ultimately these women lose their ministries and testimonies.

Although I have my own temptations and struggles, what a joy it is to watch older pastors’ wives and Christian leaders who have stayed faithful into their senior years. Listening to their testimonies and seeing them stay faithful to the Lord all the way to the end is such an encouragement to me.

Ladies, if we don’t live intentionally, our days become weeks, our weeks become months, our months become years, and our years become decades…then before you know it…our lives are over.

We have all watched Christian women, who over the course of their lives, fail to get more spiritual. They become more narrow, more bitter, more selfish, more whiny, more fearful, and more petty. But Praise the Lord, I’ve seen other women, who over the course of their lives, become more mature, more godly, more gracious, more dependent on the Lord and His blessing on their lives.

This morning, let’s determine to live our lives intentionally. Let’s set our eyes on Christ and press on to become more like Him.

Our prayer today should be…“Lord, by Your grace, help us to be more godly and gracious as the years go by. Help us to be the kind of women that encourage others as we grow older. We don’t want to just drift through our Christian lives. Help us live intentional about the way to the end for You. Although there are days in all of of our lives when we have things to do; places to go; people to check on, lessons to prepare, work to do, cards to send, emails and texts to answer… help us live the remainder of our years intentionally for You. Help us to become more gracious and kind to everyone all the way to the end.”

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Making Our Time and Talents Count

 Until the Lord returns, each day holds within it exciting unique opportunities for us to serve the Lord! Let me encourage you to begin each day with prayer! Take time every day to spend some time alone with God, read your Bible and pray about the activities before you.  Give God the opportunity to guide your thoughts and your actions, to align them with His Divine purposes.  When we consecrate our time and talents to the Lord, He is able to show us how to redeem the time.

Colossians 4:5: . . . walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time.

Ephesians 5:16  Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.

Art Demoss, the insurance executive, was a great soul-winner. When he died, hundreds of people attended his funeral. During that service, the pastor asked the audience, “If you have come to know the Lord as your Savior as a result of Art Demoss, would you please stand.” Over 500 people stood up that day at his funeral. What a testimony to a man who used his time and talents for the Lord.

Think about this! If we invest 30 minutes a day each month in the Lord’s work, we are investing 15 hours a month. If we take 15 hours times the number of years we have left to live—there is no telling what we can accomplish for the Lord!

Whatever our position may be…whether we are a homemaker, a musician, a teacher, a speaker, or a cook, God has entrusted each of us with special gifts and talents. When we commit our hearts to serve him, He is able to use our personalities, interests, and life experiences to transform us into His image. His purpose for our lives is for us to use our gifts and talents to accomplish His will while we are on this earth.

On days when you are unsure of what you should be doing…stop and pray. Allow the Lord to guide you ‘step by step’ ‘minute by minute’ throughout your day.  I guarantee you, by the end of the day as you reflect and give thanks, it will amaze you what the Lord was able to accomplish through you by being obedient to His leading.

God did not give us time and talent to just serve ourselves.  He tells us in Revelation 4:11 that He created us to bring glory to Him. He guides us and gives us discernment to know what His perfect will is for us.  For some of you, the Lord may be guiding you to learn a new language so that you can communicate your faith with more people. For others, He may be guiding you to learn new ways of organizing your lives so that you will have more time to minister.

Remember Satan is our ever-present enemy, and he wants us to get our eyes off the Lord. God’s desire for our lives is for us to grow into a deeper relationship with Him and to have a greater understanding of His ways.  It is only when we begin to understand this principle, that we will begin to experience true fulfillment, joy, and peace.

Let me encourage you to:

  • Not be weary in well doing, for in due season you shall reap if you faint not!’
  • Pray and ask the Lord to reveal to you opportunities to bless and encourage others with your gifts and talents.
  • Be assured that a day is coming when you will rejoice and be glad for those times that you sacrificed your will for His.
  • Join me in redeeming the time before our Lord returns.
  • Proclaim as Jesus did: “nevertheless, not my will, but Thy will be done!”

Romans 14:19 Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.

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Calvary Love by Amy Carmichael

If I belittle those whom I am called to serve, talk of their weak points in contrast perhaps with what I think of as my strong points; If I adopt a superior attitude, forgetting “Who made thee to differ? And what hast thou that thou hast not received?” then I know nothing of Calvary love. If I find myself taking lapses for granted, “Oh, that’s what they always do,” “Oh, of course she talks like that, he acts like that,” then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I can enjoy a joke at the expense of another; If I can in any way slight another in conversation, or even in thought, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I can write an unkind letter, speak an unkind word, think an unkind thought without grief and shame, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I do not feel far more for the grieved Savior than for my worried self when troublesome things occur, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I can rebuke without a pang, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If my attitude be one of fear, not faith, about one who has disappointed me; If I say, “Just what I expected” If a fall occurs, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I am afraid to speak the truth, lest I lose affection, or lest the one concerned should say, “You do not understand,” or because I fear to lose my reputation for kindness; If I put my own good name before the other’s highest good, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I am content to heal a hurt slightly, saying “Peace, peace,” where there is no peace; If I forget the poignant word “Let love be without dissimulation” and blunt the edge of truth, speaking not right things but smooth things, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I hold on to choices of any kind, just because they are my choice, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I am soft to myself and slide comfortably into self-pity and self-sympathy; If I do not by the grace of God practice fortitude, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I myself dominate myself, If my thoughts revolve round myself, If I am so occupied with myself I rarely have “a heart at leisure from itself,” then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If, the moment I am conscious of the shadow of self-crossing my threshold, I do not shut the door, and keep that door shut, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I cannot in honest happiness take the second place (or the twentieth); If I cannot take the first without making a fuss about my unworthiness, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I take offense easily, If I am content to continue in a cool unfriendliness, though friendship be possible, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I feel injured when another lays to my charge things that I know not, forgetting that my sinless Savior trod this path to the end, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I feel bitter toward those who condemn me, as it seems to me, unjustly, forgetting that If they knew me as I know myself they would condemn me much more, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If souls can suffer alongside, and I hardly know it, because the spirit of discernment is not in me, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If the praise of others elates me and their blame depresses me; If I cannot rest under misunderstanding without defending myself; If I love to be loved more than to love, to be served more than to serve, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I crave hungrily to be used to show the way of liberty to a soul in bondage, instead of caring only that it be delivered; If I nurse my disappointment when I fail, instead of asking that to another the word of release may be given, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I do not forget about such a trifle as personal success, so that it never crosses my mind, or If it does, is never given room there; If the cup of flattery tastes sweet to me, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If in the fellowship of service I seek to attach a friend to myself, so that others are caused to feel unwanted; If my friendships do not draw others deeper in, but are ungenerous (to myself, for myself), then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I refuse to allow one who is dear to me to suffer for the sake of Christ, If I do not see such suffering as the greatest honor that can be offered to any follower of the Crucified, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I slip into the place that can be filled by Christ alone, making myself the first necessity to a soul instead of leading it to fasten upon Him, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If my interest in the work of others is cool; If I think in terms of my own special work; If the burdens of others are not my burdens too, and their joys mine, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I wonder why something trying is allowed, and press for prayer that it may be removed; If I cannot be trusted with any disappointment, and cannot go on in peace under any mystery, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If the ultimate, the hardest, cannot be asked of me; If my fellows hesitate to ask it and turn to someone else, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I covet any place on earth but the dust at the foot of the Cross, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

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Do you find yourself always getting frustrated or angry with others? Maybe it’s a driver in traffic…or someone failed to do something that you asked him to do…or possibly you thought you were not consulted on a certain project for work or church.

When we make a plan to accomplish something, and this plan goes well, we have a sense of satisfaction because our need for a sense of control has been satisfied. When things don’t go according to our plan, we quickly become frustrated and angry.  When things happen over which we have no control, we tend to vent our frustrations verbally to those around us? Why? Because people haven’t lived up to how we tried to control them.

Why do we get frustrated and angry with those who don’t live up to our expectations? Because we want to show others how hurt we are because they haven’t followed our plans. We want to show others that they have refused our status and power. When others block our actions or refuse our permission, we get frustrated.

Frustration is a key source to all of our stress. We sometimes direct our anger inward, criticizing ourselves for lack of planning or preparation, but most of the time, we direct our frustrations to others, even those who are clearly innocent, yet just happen to be nearby.

The causes of our frustrations and anger have less to do with what happened to us than our interpretation of the causes.

Common negative thinking patterns that trigger the causes of our frustrations:

  • Over generalizing. EVERYONE disrespects me. I NEVER get the credit I deserve.”
  • Obsessing on “shoulds” and “musts.” Having a rigid view of the way things should or must be and getting frustrated when reality doesn’t line up with my vision.
  • Mind reading and jumping to conclusions. Assuming I “know” what someone else is thinking or feeling—that he or she intentionally upset me, ignored my wishes, or disrespected me.
  • When anything bad happens or something goes wrong, it’s always someone else’s fault. I blame others for every negative event that happens to me.

When I begin to feel myself getting frustrated about something, I should take a moment to think about the situation and ask myself.

Will this frustration have any impact in the framework of heaven?

Is this frustration really worth ruining the day of those around me?

Does my response to frustration display my pride and need for control?

The Lord calls tells me to:

  • Be merciful
  • Overlook the sins of others
  • Not to take revenge
  • Treat people with love and grace.

Our anger and frustrations must be overcome by the power of God’s Word and His Holy Spirit.

How Do I Deal with Everyday Frustrations and Anger?

  1. Face the real issue. “I’m not walking in the Spirit.” I must accept the fact that my frustrations and anger are really actions of my flesh. If I really want to live out God’s love in my life, I must beg Him to help me walk in the Spirit.
  • Do I really want to live as God desires for me to live?
  • Do I really want self-discipline on my life?
  • Do I really desire to love one another as God’s Words tells me to?

Galatians 5:25-26 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.

  1. Deal with my frustrations and anger.
  • I must realize that my frustrations and anger will not accomplish the righteousness of God.
  • I must confess that I have been responding to my own selfish desires and have been more focused on my own will and not on God’s will and purpose.

James 1:19-20 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.)

  1. I must die to self and live by Christ’s faith.

Galatians 2:20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.

Although it’s difficult for me not to live according to my old “self”  life and allow Christ to live His life through me, I know it is possible. I must begin my day with a “Die to Self Prayer”.

Dear Father,
I realize this morning that to die with Christ simply means that I no longer allow my flesh to rule over my will, my thoughts, and my feelings. Through your power I  want Your Spirit to control my body, soul, and spirit. Please show me how to obey the life of Christ within me. Father, I understand that unless  self dies, I’m not able to obey the Holy Spirit.  Please, Father, help me today. I know I can’t completely eradicate my old man, but I do now commit my body, soul, and spirit to Your control. May Your will be accomplished this day. In Jesus name…

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Not to Be Ministered Unto

Ladies,
I’ve had this tract in my files for years. I remember reading it years ago and feeling very convicted. As I was recently preparing a devotion, I came across it again. I was thrilled when I found it on the web. I hope it is a blessing to you and you can use it as you minister.

                                        WHAT MADE YOU CROSS?
                                               J.H. HORSBURGH, M. A.

“For even the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).

A great fact is here stated concerning the Son of Man. The speaker is our Lord Himself, who in this, as in all matters, left us an example that we should follow in His steps.

                                                   THE INCIDENT
The incident that gave rise to His words is a sad one. Two of His disciples, James and John, wanted to be ministered unto by being granted the chief places in His glory (Mark 10:35-37). When the others heard it, they were highly indignant, for they wanted to be ministered unto by having the chief places themselves. But out of the ferment the Lord brought good. He made it an occasion to remind His disciples that they were not of the world, and that their distinguishing mark must be lowliness and readiness to serve one another.

                                          THE MASTER’S EXAMPLE
“Jesus called them unto Him” (Mark 10:42). Notice the tenderness and pathos here. He had been telling the Twelve about Himself — of the awful betrayal, the cruel sufferings and indignity, the shameful death that awaited Him at Jerusalem (Mark 10:32-34). Surely their hearts are melted? Nay, they seem unable to think of Him. They begin to quarrel among themselves as to who should be the greatest. Picture their flushed faces, their angry tones, their violent gestures! “But Jesus called them unto Him,” and gently quelled the storm. Earthly rulers, He tells them, exercise lordship over others: “but so shall it not be among you: but whosoever desires to be great among you must be your servant, and whosoever of you desires to be first must be the bondslave of all, for even the Son of Man came NOT TO BE MINISTERED UNTO, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:42-45). In a word, “remember that you are My disciples. The disciple must be as his Master.”

                             “NOT TO BE MINISTERED UNTO”
Evidently this is something which closely concerns us all if we are Jesus’ disciples. It tells us something of what spirit we should have and what our life ought to be today and every day.

The passage tells us that the Son of Man came to minister. This is a great subject. It is not that incidentally He ministered unto a few or too many; but He came to minister. It was His set purpose.

But this wonderful passage tells us something else about the Son of Man. He “came NOT TO BE MINISTERED UNTO.”

We are apt to slur over this, to forget it or perhaps to pass it by altogether unnoticed. The disciples of Jesus are to be “even as the Son of Man” in coming to minister. Yes, and the disciples of Jesus are to be “even as the Son of Man” in coming “NOT TO BE MINISTERED UNTO.”

                                      A PERSONAL TESTIMONY
If a word of personal testimony may be allowed, I should like to say this. In the ups and downs, the wear and tear of daily life, there are few passages of Scripture, which search me as this does. It convicts, rebukes, and condemns me. It is always finding me out! It seems to knock me over at every turn! And, yet, how it encourages, quiets, strengthens, comforts, and helps me!

                                  COMING TO BE MINISTERED
This coming to be ministered unto is the spirit that is in the world. It is at the bottom of disagreements in the nursery, fights in the school, quarrels among private individuals, wars among nations. And, alas! not only in the world is this spirit prevalent but in the Church also. As Christians we do not adequately realize–perhaps we hardly realize at all–how much of sin and failure, how much of vexation and discontent, how much of peevishness and irritability, how much of discord and unhappiness in our lives is due to our COMING TO BE MINISTERED UNTO, instead of coming not to be ministered unto.

Are we not too often cross, vexed, rasped, indignant? Sometimes we show it by a foolish exhibition of temper; sometimes we restrain ourselves, but there the nasty feeling is! And why? — in all probability because we have come to be ministered unto and have been disappointed.

The fact is, we are always wanting to be ministered unto by people, by circumstances, by fortune (“luck,” perhaps you call it), by the weather, by something. To be ministered unto is so natural, so necessary, so proper! We have been brought up to expect it. And if we are thwarted, as we often are, we are apt to get cross, sulky, moody, nervous, and perhaps end by making ourselves miserable, and others too.

How different it would be if, like the Son of Man, we always “came NOT TO BE MINISTERED UNTO”! Take a few illustrations:

                                          YOU ARE SLIGHTED?
You are slighted, ignored, brushed aside. Or your employer, or employee, does not show you proper consideration. Or your neighbor does not treat you with the respect which is due to your position, your abilities, your character. You feel it very much; in fact you are quite upset about it. Why? Is it because you came to minister, and were deprived of the privilege? No, not that at all. It is because your feelings, your rights, your gifts, your position, your dignity, your importance were not recognized. YOU were not ministered unto. And you came to be ministered unto. Hence the storm!

                                             YOU ARE JEALOUS?
Or consider that most hateful thing, jealousy. What is it? Another is praised or put before you. Another does better than you. Another is more fortunate than you. The honor, the success, the money, the popularity, or the reward has gone to him. You wanted it for yourself. You came to be ministered unto. And because he has been ministered unto, and not you, you are jealous!

                                      “NOT RIGHT TO IGNORE ME”
“But it was not right,” you say, “He had no business to ignore me, to snub me, to treat me as he did. And it was most unjust; that other person ought not to have been placed over my head.” That may be perfectly true, and we make no excuse for wrong and injustice. But you are a disciple of Jesus (I am speaking only to such), and I ask you–if you had come, like your Master, “NOT TO BE MINISTERED UNTO but to minister,” would you be feeling so sore and angry and jealous? The trouble is, you came to be ministered unto.

                                                 NOT PRAISED?
You have been kind to someone. You have rendered him a service. It has cost you something to do it. Naturally you thought your goodness would be appreciated. And it wasn’t, at least not as much as you think it ought to have been. You expected profuse thanks, and quite a little fuss to be made over it. And your friend took it coolly.

You are disgusted. You wish you hadn’t helped him. And you feel half inclined to say in your haste you will never do anybody a kindness again! Why? You have ministered unto another; you have helped someone who was in need. Yes, but you have not been ministered unto. You wanted to be thought exceedingly good and kind and generous. That is to say, you expected to be ministered unto by the thanks and praise, and a little flattery too, perhaps, of the other. Yes, when we come to be ministered unto we do meet sometimes with severe shocks!

                                               NOT CONSULTED?
You are a person of excellent taste, sound judgment, and good common sense. And you find your advice has been ignored–perhaps it was not even asked–in a matter, too, in which you pose as an authority. You cannot understand it. You feel rubbed the wrong way. Your spirit within you is ruffled. Your equilibrium is quite disturbed. What is the trouble? Is it that you came wanting to minister to your friend, and by neglecting to take your advice he has got himself into a sad mess? Not at all. As it happens, he has managed very nicely indeed without your help. The trouble is this: you have not been acknowledged. Your reputation as an “authority” in the matter of taste or judgment has not been ministered unto. You came not to minister but to be ministered unto. And you have been disappointed!

                                   ARE YOU A PUBLIC SPEAKER?
You had been announced to speak on a special occasion. A good audience assembled, and you noticed with peculiar satisfaction that Mr. X., a well-known and influential Christian man, was present. You had a great subject, and waxed very eloquent. At the close you felt extremely pleased with yourself, and you naturally expected Mr. X. to come up at once, grasp your hand, and thank you warmly “for such an able, interesting, and moving address.”

But Mr. X. walked quietly out of the hall without a word! How crestfallen you were! The joy you had felt was extinguished like a snuffed out candle! How was this? You had had the opportunity of ministering to a number of people. But this was not quite what you came for. In your heart of hearts you wanted that speech to minister unto you. It is the old trouble again. You came to be ministered unto.

                                             ABOUT YOUR WORK–
You are a professional man, or you are a man of business. You are doing fairly well. You have enough for all your needs. But you have set your heart on great things. And your success has fallen short of your expectations. This is weighing on your mind. It is a daily trouble to you. You are feeling constantly depressed. What is really at the bottom of it? Is it that you came to minister, and you are disappointed not to be able to minister as fully as you hoped to do? No, not that. But you desire to gratify yourself more; you want to make a bigger show, to be thought more of; you covet to be rich. And your desire for these things is not gratified. You are not ministered unto!

                                                   –AND PLAY
Even our recreation is disturbed by this “coming-to-be-ministered-unto” spirit. You went in for a race, a competition, a game. You failed: you were beaten. How “horrid” you felt! To this day that feeling haunts you!

A Cambridge athlete won a race three years in succession. If he could win it the fourth year, it would be a record. And he was expected to win. But he lost! I am told that for weeks he never smiled. He wanted that race to minister to his fame. He wanted people to be able to point to him and say, “He has done what nobody else has done.” And, because he was not ministered unto, he was crushed.

“The Sorrows of the Playground!” If truthfully written, what tragic stories the book would contain!

Do you play golf? Have you ever seen, not a child, but a full-grown, well-educated man stamp wildly up and down the ground because a poor little golf ball did not minister unto his conceit by going where he desired? Have you ever heard of quite important personages being rendered so unhappy at not being ministered unto by their refractory little golf balls, that they had to give up the game?

“But,” you reply, “in our sports and competitions we are out to do our best and to win. Our aim is to be ministered unto.” Yes, of course. But, after all, it is only a game. And a disciple of Christ must not take his games too seriously. Even on the playing fields he can manifest the “came-not-to-be-ministered-unto-but-to-minister-to” spirit. When he is beaten he can enjoy the satisfaction of knowing that in losing he has been the means of ministering unto the winner.

                                           CHRISTIAN SERVICE
But to return to something more serious than sport. You are engaged in Christian work. You are a Sunday school teacher, or a district visitor, or a church officer. Or perhaps you help at the Mother’s Meeting, the Band of Hope, or the Mission Room. Now you are thinking of giving up the work. Why? Has your health failed? Have you not now the time for it? Are home duties too pressing? No, none of these is the reason. Then you are not wanted? Is there no longer need of your services? Is the opportunity to minister withdrawn from you?

No, the need is as great as ever. The door of opportunity remains wide open. Then why are you giving up? Well, you are tired of the work, so you think you will drop it. You expected it would be an interest to you. It would bring you into touch with others. It would give you a position in the church. In fact, you thought you would like it. And you did like it for a time, but now you are tired of it.

Ah! We are now beginning to understand. You thought the work would minister unto you. And as long as it ministered unto you, you were willing to go on with it. Now that it no longer ministers unto you, you will give it up. But “the Son of Man came NOT TO BE MINISTERED UNTO, but to minister, and to give His life….” And are not you His disciple?

These are only a few illustrations. They may not be applicable to you. But think it out, and whatever may be your walk in life or your relation to your fellowmen, you will be surprised to find how much of your unrest, how many of your troubles, arise from this same cause–COMING TO BE MINISTERED UNTO, instead of coming to minister.

                                               JARS IN THE HOME
You and your friend are living together. Your mutual happiness is interrupted by little jars. You are quick, and your friend is slow. You are economical, and your friend is extravagant. You are punctual, and your friend is unpunctual. You are a very tidy person, and your friend is untidy. You like everything done in your own particular way; your friend does them any old way! So there is constant friction. But why? Is it because you cannot minister to your friend? No, indeed. It is because your love of tidiness or whatever it may be is not ministered unto.

Or perhaps you are the free and easy person, and you are annoyed because your happy-go-lucky way is not ministered unto!

Suppose you both try coming NOT TO BE MINISTERED UNTO, but to minister and to give?

                                                   MERE TRIFLES
It is astounding what a number of little things disturb us. Your plan for the afternoon is upset. You desire a wet day; it persists in being fine. A visitor calls just when you want to go out. You are asked to sing, and your voice is husky and does not do you credit. The answer to your letter has not come. Your request is not granted. You are interrupted in the middle of an interesting book. The pen won’t write. The dress doesn’t fit. The fire won’t burn. Something is wrong with the dinner. The children are so noisy!

Sometimes everything seems wrong. There is nothing big, nothing we can lay our finger upon. But we are always coming into the world with our likes and dislikes, our whims and fancies, our wishes and hobbies, our fads and foibles; and if we are not ministered unto in these little things, we are apt to be distressed and to get put out with ourselves and with everybody else.

                                               THE HAPPY WAY
I am persuaded that the happiness of our lives depends enormously on the spirit in which we come afresh into the world each day. If we come to be ministered unto, we shall soon be fretting and inwardly fuming. But if we come NOT TO BE MINISTERED UNTO, but to minister, it will be very different. “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” It is happier to minister than to be ministered unto. And it is far nobler: “Whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant” (Matt. 20:27).

                                              A WORD OF CAUTION
Now for a word of caution: Our text does not say that we are to be like Stoics; that whatever happens we are not to feel it. Annoyances, rubs, disappointments–the things that we have been talking about — -of course we feel them. (They would be of no use to us if we didn’t feel them.) But they need not distress us. Someone has said: “You cannot prevent a crow from alighting on your head, but you can prevent its building a nest in your hair.” When we come to be ministered unto, we harbor a grievance, we exaggerate it, we give way to it, and we let it build its nest and hatch its mischievous eggs.

When we come NOT TO BE MINISTERED UNTO, but to minister, we do not harbor the grievance, we give it no welcome, we pay it scant attention, we are too occupied to trouble about it. Let us be like Jesus. He was always too busy thinking of others and ministering to them, to concern Himself as to whether He was being ministered unto, or not. One sovereign remedy against touchiness is to be busy caring for your neighbor.

                                   ANOTHER WORD OF CAUTION
Again, our text does not say that we are not to be ministered unto. It does not say that we are always to be slighted, never courted: that we are never to meet with success: that no rewards and prizes are ever to come our way: that we are to go about the world looking for injustice, insults, and ill treatment. Nothing of the kind. There is no harm in being ministered unto.   The Son of Man was often ministered unto, and He appreciated it very much. We shall often be ministered unto, perhaps all the more if we do not expect it. The harm is in coming to be ministered unto instead of to minister: in wanting to be ministered unto: in seeking it, setting our heart upon it, and in being disappointed, chagrined, ruffled, and cross if we are not ministered unto.

We have lingered long talking about this failing–COMING TO BE MINISTERED UNTO–because it is so prevalent, its consequences are so sad, and chiefly because so many of us who are habitually guilty are unconscious of the fact.

                                                     SELF MUST DIE
And now for a few brief words concerning the remedy: Be well assured that at the bottom of the trouble, and in all its ramifications, is SELF. And this old enemy Self must be mortified–put to death. We must give Self no quarter. “I send you (self) my best wishes for your birthday: I hope you are dead,” wrote one. And she was right. “I seemed spoiled for everything but to see (the self in) people die,” wrote another. And she was right. SELF MUST DIE.

With this fact in view, in what a different light must we regard NOT BEING MINISTERED UNTO. Welcome disappointment! Welcome hardship! Welcome slight! Welcome thorns and pricks! These may all be turned to excellent account. To fail in getting what we want may be a piece of good fortune! To be thwarted may be so good for us! To have our wishes crossed may be a positive blessing! To be trampled upon may be a splendid thing! For every time we are not ministered unto, a fresh opportunity is given for Self to die! And the person who snubs us may well be regarded as a friend for administering to our archenemy–SELF–a stout knock on the head! SELF MUST BE MORTIFIED. For it is only as Self dies that we can live the happy and victorious life.

                                              CHRIST MUST LIVE
But it is not enough that Self dies. Something else must happen. Christ must live. Self dying–Christ living. And it is in proportion as Self dies in us that Christ can live in us. Let us not then be afraid of death–death to the Self–Life. It is only as Self dies and Christ lives in us that we shall be able to come fresh into the world each day “NOT TO BE MINISTERED UNTO, but to minister,” and in our tiny measure to give our lives, to sacrifice OURSELVES, for the glory of our God and the good of our fellows.

                                                        A RANSOM
We have not considered at all the last and most precious part of our text: “The Son of Man came . . . to give His life a ransom for many.” (“A ransom for all”–I Tim. 2:6.) Yet, if this should catch the eye of one who is not Jesus’ disciple, this is the part for you to consider.

“The Son of Man came.” He might have stayed in His home of Glory: but He came. And He has given His life a ransom for you. Sin–your sin–has brought you into the grip of God’s Holy Law. Neither good resolutions nor amendments can undo the past. You stand condemned.

But on Calvary’s Cross Jesus has made a full satisfaction for your sins (I Pet. 2:24; I John 2:2). He has died to set you free from the penalty and power of sin. Come, then, as a sinner to God, repenting, and trusting in the atoning blood which has been shed for you, the blood of Jesus Christ which cleanseth us from all sin (I John 1:7). And in a moment all the past is blotted out, and you stand before the Judge justified, no longer Satan’s unhappy slave, but a blood-bought son of the Eternal God.

“Redeemed . . . with the precious blood of Christ” (I Pet. 1:18,19). Now you are called to fellowship with Him, and are privileged henceforth to become a working partner in your Heavenly Father’s business. “He ordained twelve that they should be with Him, and that He might send them forth” (Mark 3:14)

“His servants shall serve Him; and they shall see His face . . . and they shall reign for ever and ever” (Rev. 22:3-5).

Prairie Book Room

Three Hills, Alberta, Canada

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Do You Struggle with Being a People-Pleaser?

If you are  a people-pleaser, you might need to redirect your focus to become more concerned with what pleases God than with what pleases others.

Romans 12:1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.

 Remember If I WANT to Keep My Focus on Pleasing God

  • Seek to know His will in each situation of your life.
  • Don’t think that you have to do everything you are asked to do…even in the church!
  • Remember when your heart’s desire is to please God, you will be able to put others’ needs and desires in a healthy perspective.
  • Learn to budget your time by prioritizing your life and determining how much time you will allot for specific people and activities.

                           Priortize by Order of Importance

Your relationship with God
Your family (marriage, children, parents)
Your employment (If you work outside the home)
Your  personal time (time alone with God, time alone with self)
Your church

God should always be number one in your priority list. The problem is that if you’re a people-pleaser, you think that being “a good Christian” means that you must please everyone. You tend to believe that you are putting God first when you say yes to every good cause, especially if it is a church-related.

How do I figure out how to budget my time commitments?

1. Recognize that God wants our families to be number one under Him. When we get over-committed to the point that it robs us of our time that we should be giving our families, it is time to say no.

2. Make sure that we budget some time for ourselves. Jesus was a person who had a vision, a purpose, and a consuming passion, yet when He needed time for Himself, He took it?

Luke 4:42 And when it was day, he departed and went into a desert place: and the people sought him, and came unto him, and stayed him, that he should not depart from them.

The Lord had been up all night healing the sick and casting out demons and was exhausted. Instead of expecting His Father to give Him supernatural strength to continue, He recognized His need for rest and rejuvenation.

In order to nurture our relationships with our heavenly Father, we must budget a quiet time with Him every day. Unless we feed on His Word and allow the Holy Spirit to energize us for the work He has called us to do, we won’t be able to recognize the opportunities He sets before us. It is during our quiet times that the Holy Spirit can help us put things into perspective and guide us into making wise decisions concerning the demands others put on our time.

When God reigns at the top of our list of priorities, we can trust Him to show us where to place other people, ourselves, and all our other involvements. When our relationship with God is right, our relationships with others will fall into place.

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Missionary Story

Back in 1921, a missionary couple named David and Svea Flood went with their two-year-old son from Sweden to the heart of Africa-to what was then called the Belgian Congo. They met up with another young Scandinavian couple, the Ericksons, and the four of them sought God for direction. In those days of much tenderness and devotion and sacrifice, they felt led of the Lord to go out from the main mission station and take the gospel to a remote area.

This was a huge step of faith. At the village of N’dolera they were rebuffedby the chief, who would not let them enter his town for fear of alienating the local gods. The two couples opted to go half a mile up the slope and build their own mud huts.

They prayed for a spiritual breakthrough, but there was none. The only contact with the villagers was a young boy, who was allowed to sell them chickens and eggs twice a week. Svea Flood-a tiny woman of only four feet, eight inches tall-decided that if this was the only African she could talk to, she would try to lead the boy to Jesus. And in fact, she succeeded. But there were no other encouragements. Meanwhile, malaria continued to strike one member of the little band after another. In time the Ericksons decided they had had enough suffering and left to return to the central mission station. David and Svea Flood remained near N’dolera to go on alone.

Then, of all things, Svea found herself pregnant in the middle of the primitive wilderness. When the time came for her to give birth, the village chief softened enough to allow a midwife to help her. A little girl was born, whom they named Aina. The delivery, however, was exhausting, and Svea Flood was already weak from bouts of malaria. The birth process was a heavy blow to her stamina. She lasted only another seventeen days.

Inside David Flood, something snapped in that moment. He dug a crude grave, buried his twenty-seven-year-old wife, and then took his children back down the mountain to the mission station. Giving his newborn daughter to the Ericksons, he snarled, “I’m going back to Sweden. I’ve lost my wife, and I obviously can’t take care of this baby. God has ruined my life.” With that, he headed for the port, rejecting not only his calling, but God himself.

Within eight months both the Ericksons were stricken with a mysterious malady and died within days of each other. The baby was then turned over to some American missionaries, who adjusted her Swedish name to “Aggie” and eventually brought her back to the United States at age three. This family loved the little girl and was afraid that if they tried to return to Africa, some legal obstacle might separate her from them. So they decided to stay in their home country and switch from missionary work to pastoral ministry. And that is how Aggie grew up in South Dakota. As a young woman, she attended North Central Bible College in Minneapolis. There she met and married a young man named Dewey Hurst.

Years passed and the Hursts enjoyed a fruitful ministry. Aggie gave birth first to a daughter, then a son. In time her husband became president of a Christian college in the Seattle area, and Aggie was intrigued to find so much Scandinavian heritage there.

One day a Swedish religious magazine appeared in her mailbox. She had no idea who had sent it, and of course she couldn’t read the words. But as she turned the pages, all of a sudden a photo stopped her cold. There in a primitive setting was a grave with a white cross-and on the cross were the words SVEA FLOOD.

Aggie jumped in her car and went straight to a college faculty member who, she knew, could translate the article. “What does this say?” she demanded. The instructor summarized the story: It was about missionaries who had come to N’dolera long ago…the birth of a white baby… the death of the young mother…the one little African boy who had been led to Christ…and how, after the whites had all left, the boy had grown up and finally persuaded the chief to let him build a school in the village. The article said that gradually he won all his students to Christ…the children led their parents to Christ…even the chief had become a Christian. Today there were six hundred Christian believers in that one village… All because of the sacrifice of David and Svea Flood.

For the Hursts’ twenty-fifth wedding anniversary, the college presented them with the gift of a vacation to Sweden. There Aggie sought to find her real father. An old man now, David Flood had remarried, fathered four more children, and generally dissipated his life with alcohol. He had recently suffered a stroke. Still bitter, he had one rule in his family: “Never mention the name of God-because God took everything from me.”

After an emotional reunion with her half brothers and half sister, Aggie brought up the subject of seeing her father. The others hesitated. “You can talk to him,” they replied, “even though he’s very ill now. But you need to know that whenever he hears the name of God, he flies into a rage.”

Aggie was not to be deterred. She walked into the squalid apartment, with liquor bottles everywhere, and approached the seventy-three-year-old man lying in a rumpled bed.
“Papa?” she said tentatively. He turned and began to cry. “Aina,” he said, “I never meant to give you away.”

“It’s all right Papa,” she replied, taking him gently in her arms. “God took care of me.”

The man instantly stiffened. The tears stopped. God forgot all of us. Our lives have been like this because of Him.” He turned his face back to the wall. Aggie stroked his face and then continued, undaunted. “Papa, I’ve got a little story to tell you, and it’s a true one. You didn’t go to Africa in vain. Mama didn’t die in vain. The little boy you won to the Lord grew up to win that whole village to Jesus Christ. The one seed you planted just kept growing and growing. Today there are six hundred African people serving the Lord because you were faithful to the call of God in your life… “Papa, Jesus loves you. He has never hated you.”

The old man turned back to look into his daughter’s eyes. His body relaxed. He began to talk. And by the end of the afternoon, he had come back to the God he had resented for so many decades. Over the next few days, father and daughter enjoyed warm moments together.

Aggie and her husband soon had to return to America-and within a few weeks, David Flood had gone into eternity.

A few years later, the Hursts were attending a high-level evangelism conference in London, England, where a report was given from the nation of Zaire (the former Belgian Congo). The superintendent of the national church, representing some 110,000 baptized believers, spoke eloquently of the gospel’s spread in his nation. Aggie could not help going to ask him afterward if he had ever heard of David and Svea Flood.

“Yes, madam,” the man replied in French, his words then being translated into English. “It was Svea Flood who led me to Jesus Christ. I was the boy who brought food to your parents before you were born. In fact, to this day your mother’s grave and her memory are honored by all of us.” He embraced her in a long, sobbing hug. Then he continued, “You must come to Africa to see, because your mother is the most famous person in our history.”

In time that is exactly what Aggie Hurst and her husband did. They were welcomed by cheering throngs of villagers. She even met the man who had been hired by her father many years before to carry her back down the mountain in a hammock-cradle.

The most dramatic moment, of course, was when the pastor escorted Aggie to see her mother’s white cross for herself. She knelt in the soil to pray and give thanks. Later that day, in the church, the pastor read from John 12:24:Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. He then followed with Psalm 126:5: They that sow in tears shall reap in joy.

(An excerpt from Aggie Hurst, Aggie: The Inspiring Story of A Girl Without A Country [Springfield, MO: Gospel Publishing House, 1986].) Permissions: Feel free to reproduce and distribute any articles written by Randy Alcorn, in part or in whole, in any format, provided that you do not alter the wording in any way or charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. It is our desire to spread this information, not protect or restrict it.

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What Is Faith?

If someone asked you this morning, “What is faith?” How would you answer that question?

The root word of ‘faith’ is PISTIS. That word is a noun.

FAITH – PISTIS means faith, belief, firm persuasion, assurance, firm conviction, faithfulness.

The root word of ‘believe’ is PISTUEO. That word is a verb.

BELIEVE – PISTUEO – to trust in and rely upon, commit to the charge of, confide in, have a mental persuasion.

What a great thought that my faith is the act whereby I lay hold of God’s resources, and I become obedient to what He has prescribed for me. I put aside all my self interest and self-reliance, and trust Him completely. It is an absolute surrender of the whole of my being and a complete dependence upon Him. It is wholly trusting and relying upon Him for all things. It is not just a mental assent to the facts and realities of His Word, but it is a deep inner commitment to the convictions which have come to me through His Word. By faith,  I have a firm conviction that I can fully commit my life to God’s charge and be assured that He knows what is best for me.

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When God’s Gifts Aren’t Wrapped How You Hoped

Written by Paul Chappell  December 23, 2016

Life has a way of handing us unexpected and unwanted packages.

A pink slip from your employer.

A bad report from the doctor.

An eviction notice from the bank.

A harsh email from a strained relationship.

Too often, the package delivered with your name on it isn’t a present you want.

The first Christmas was wrapped in an unusual set of circumstances: Joseph and Mary having to make a difficult journey in the last trimester of her pregnancy…and then to have to give birth in a stable.

But the way Jesus chose to come reveals that the “surprises” in our lives that look so foreboding to us truly are unusual packages of God’s grace.

So what do we learn from the first Christmas about what to do when life hands us unwanted packages?

Trust God’s Providence

Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem was no accident. It was the fulfillment of a prophecy concerning where Jesus would be born.

Seven hundred years before Mary and Joseph began the difficultly-timed journey to Bethlehem, God had instructed the prophet Micah to record, “But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting” (Micah 5:2).

Life is full of unavoidable circumstances. We can expend our energy in futile efforts to change them. We can spend our time stewing in bitter resentment over them. Or we can trust God’s providence in the midst of them.

Although we may not see God’s hand of providence for years to come, we can trust that anything out of our control is filtered by the hand of our loving Father. He will not allow into our lives anything through which He cannot fulfill his promise in Romans 8:28.

Showcase God’s Grace

The presentation of Christ to this world was not the way we would have planned it. And I think we can safely say it is not the way Mary would have planned it either. (What mother wants to lay her newborn in a used feeding trough?)

But, with the enabling grace of God, Mary’s response to the unusual package of the manger magnified God’s grace, rather than opening it up for question.

Mary could have complained. She could have become angry toward God. “God, first You make me travel ninety miles when I’m great with child, and now this?! Couldn’t I at least have a comfortable room and clean surroundings in which to give birth? Why would You do this to me?”

Because Mary and Joseph received the incredible gift of Jesus—with no expectations of how He should be delivered or presented to the world—they deflected the attention from themselves to the manger.

And the manger became a showcase of grace where shepherds knelt in worship of God.

Wholly Surrender to God’s Will

Why did God choose Mary? The complete answer to that question is known only by God. But it is significant that Mary was willing—truly submitted—to receive this unusual, and in some ways heavy, gift.

Sure, there was great cost involved for Mary. But she yielded to the Lord, bore the cost, and cherished the gift.

God isn’t looking for the strong or searching for the famous. He gives His most precious gifts to those who will simply yield their wills to Him.

Our problem is that we see what looks to us like distasteful wrapping, and in our selfishness, we plead with God to take back His gifts.

Not so with Mary. She simply said, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word” (Luke 1:38).

What To Do with Your Gift

What about you? Are you staggering under the load of an unusual package—one that you never would have chosen, but have no way to release?

Are you struggling to understand the unavoidable circumstances that have come into your life?

Are you disappointed in the harsh realities of failed expectations?

Tiptoe to the Bethlehem stable. Gaze on a weary young mother, required to travel far in her last month of pregnancy—only to find a barn in which to give birth. See a crude manger. But don’t look solely at these wrappings. Peer beyond, into the manger, and see the face of God!

Yes, Christmas is a gift. And sometimes God sends His greatest gifts in the most unusual packages.

Trust His providence.

Showcase His grace.

And wholly surrender to His will.

In time, you will learn that God gives the best surprises.

(This post is adapted from chapter 3 of Christmas Is a Giftavailable also on kindle.)

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