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The Forgotten Servant

During the early stages of World War II, the United States Coast Guard vessel, Icarus, was tasked with patrolling the East Coast of America.  On May 9, 1942, the Icarus detected and sank German submarine, U-352, off the coast of Cape Lookout, North Carolina.  Icarus then rescued and detained thirty-three crew members, including its captain, from the sinking U-boat.  These were the first German prisoners taken during World War II by any branch of the United States military services.  (Pause for Thought:  “However, as it is written: ‘What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived’—the things God has prepared for those who love Him—these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit.  The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.”—I Corinthians 2:9-10  Have you ever come into new information or knowledge about someone of something that caused you to have a greater respect, affection, and/or appreciation of that someone or something?  How did you behave after gaining this knowledge? )
 
The United States Coast Guard (USGC) is often called the “Forgotten Service” because many people do not recognize it for being part of the United States military services.  In fact, I now see it listed as the sixth military service, AFTER the recently established United States Space Force.  I just found out about the Icarus while my son and I were watching one of his WWII documentaries he received for Christmas.  I would probably have slept right past the exploit of the Icarus were it not for the fact my son wants to join the USGC someday, and he woke me with a, “You got Coast Guarded son!” during the Icarus snippet.  I’ve become extremely sensitive to USGC headlines because of my son’s passion for their service.  I think this is how it is with our recognition of the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Trinity.  We remember and pursue God the Father and Jesus the Son, but we forget the Person who makes all of us one, and we can only truly appreciate the Holy Spirit when we are passionate about the Father and the Son.  (Pause for Thought:  “But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth.  He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.  He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you.  All that belongs to the Father is mine.  That is why I said the Spirit will receive what he will make known to you.”—John 16:13-15  How does knowing the truth unite people?  How have you been pursuing truth?  How at peace is your soul with the Holy Spirit and with other people?)
 
I find all this a little ironic, and at times, confusing.  To love the Spirit, I have to love God and Jesus more and more. And to love God and Jesus more and more, I have to love the Spirit.  The irony and confusion frustrate me only when I compartmentalize the Trinity.  He is the Three in One.  Every person of the Trinity is a servant to me.  He is my one and same truth, need, and desire.  Like the USGC is part of the US Homeland Security Department in peace, it is also part of the US Navy during wartime, but it never stops being the United States Coast Guard with its intent to serve the United States of America.  The Holy Spirit is like Paul declares in the New Testament…He’s a gift of a gift…grace upon grace…to us with the intent of serving Heaven on our behalf.  (Pause for Thought:  “For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them?  In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.  What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us.  The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, for, ‘Who has the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?’ But we have the mind of Christ.”—I Corinthians 2:11-12,15  How does it make you feel knowing you could, and probably should, have the mind of Christ?  How much do you know about Jesus’ thoughts and feelings regarding this existence and eternal life?  Is there someone you know who pursues and has the mind of Christ by the gift of His Spirit?  Will you talk with this person this week, and if so, what will you choose, or remember, to talk about?)
 

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Tents & Tabernacle

It was a strange sight that greeted my eyes as I peered through the coffee shop window that summer morning.  Coming from the distant trees, a lone figure of a man dragging some fabric and metal tubing across the expansive parking lot caused me to do a double-take.  The man, in his early twenties, kept approaching the coffee shop front door.  The only thing stopping his entrance into the shop was the fact the door was too narrow to fit, what I could now clearly see, what was a tent frame.  Much to the manager’s relief, I convinced the man he could leave his prized, and only, possession on the grass adjacent to the store entrance.  He complied reluctantly with the suggestion, and he told me he needed to keep watch on his tent because of the bad people looking to take it from him.    (Pause for Thought:  “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”—Romans 8:38-39  Have you ever lost someone or something that you loved?  What emotions developed your thoughts and actions during that time?  Have you ever lost the love of God?  If so, why and how?)
 
The young man obviously needed something to eat and drink, so I offered to buy him a coffee and sandwich.  Concerned he would have to leave sight of his tent, I assured him I would purchase the breakfast and deliver it to him, so he could keep watch.  After he had eaten some of the sandwich, I talked about his tent, and his passion for it.  I told him his tent reminded me of a tent, a tabernacle, of Bible times, and explained the tabernacle was a tent God used when he stayed among His people.  I then explained how Jesus, God’s only son, “camped out” with us that first Christmas, and His dwelling in our hearts and lives could never be stolen by “bad people”.  (Pause for Thought:  “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”—which means, “God with us.”—Matthew1:23; “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.  We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”—John 1:14  Why did Jesus, fully God and fully human, have to come for you that first Christmas?  How has He been living or trying to live with you ever since?)
 
The man was intrigued enough I felt I could pray for him and the restoration of his soul.  He wouldn’t allow me to pray for his salvation, but he did want me to pray that he could “get his life together”.  I prayed for his physical tent, and I prayed for his soulful tent.  I prayed the baby of that first Christmas would someday become the Lord and King of this man’s heart, and an abundant life, an eternal life, would someday be his through Christ Jesus.  (Pause for Thought:  Jesus said, “I am the vine you are the branches.  If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.  If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be given you.”—John 15:5 & 7  What have you wished for this Christmas?  How have you been remaining in Jesus?  How has he been remaining in you this Christmas?  Has there been a distraction in your life keeping you from remaining in Him?  What will you do about it?)
 

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Frayed Knot or Afraid Not?

My grandmother’s favorite joke goes something like this:  A piece of rope walks into a bar and asks the barkeep for a drink.  The tender tells the rope, “We don’t serve pieces of rope in here.”  The rope walks out of the bar dejected and discouraged until he gets an idea.  He tousles the strands of fiber on top of his head and twists and turns his body onto itself.  He then proceeds to walk back into the bar, just as the barkeep exclaims, “Didn’t I tell you we don’t serve pieces of rope here!”  The rope responds, “I’m a frayed knot.”   (Pause for Thought:  “And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.  An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and they were terrified.  But the angel said to them, ‘Fear Not!  I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.  Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord’.”—Luke 2:8-11  What are you afraid of missing out on this Christmas?  How are your patterns of speech, behavior, and even attitudes reflecting these fears—Are they turning you into a frayed knot?  Where do you go or to whom do you turn to hear “Good News?”)
 
I love the visual in Luke’s gospel of the shepherds “living” in the wilderness at night doing their job just as was expected of them by the rest of the world.  But on the night described in Luke Chapter 2, tending flocks, as usual, wasn’t going to suffice for their highest good.  The angel had to tell them to, “calm down, rest assured, it’s alright tonight and every night hereafter because things are changing for the better.  Heaven is coming to earth and people will be saved from themselves.”  I would think I would be startled, if not terrified, by the sight of the angel, but I think I would be more afraid to change who I am and what I’m supposed to do in light of the message the angel brought.  I would be afraid to give up control of what I know or even what is expected of me.  (Pause for Thought:  “So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manager.  When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.”—Luke 2:16-18  Why did the shepherds quit what they were supposed to be doing?  What could have happened when the shepherds stopped shepherding?  Is there something the Spirit is asking you to stop doing this Christmas?  What do you feel could be the consequences of your stopping?  Are your feelings adequate in light of God’s truth and promises to you?)
 
This time of year hits like a freight train.  I tell myself the world will be more relaxed, less stressed, and more tolerant, but each year seems worse than the last according to my physical senses and emotional responses.  Truth is, the stress comes from everywhere except the Good News, and this time of year, Christmas Time, is all about the Good News.  I choose to add to my own stress by pushing myself into a mold of my own or the worlds choosing instead of changing according to the Spirit’s directive and power over my life.  This Christmas, I will choose not to tie myself into a frayed knot.  I will choose to let the Good News transform me and send me in Jesus’ Name.  (Pause for Thought:  “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing, and perfect will.”—Romans 12:2  What is the difference between conforming and transforming?  How does the Good News that Jesus saves us transform us?  How does spreading, sharing, and living the Good News transform us and others?  What will your transformation look like this Christmas?)
 

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Fish House Worship

It started innocently enough. I had just beaten the rain to the dock and entered the fish cleaning house with my morning’s catch, when the other two entered through the spring-hinged screen door. The typical fishing pleasantries were shared between the three of us—“Those are wall-hangers where we come from.” I asked where they were from, and they said the Monroe area. I was grateful for their compliment and congratulated them on the number of fine panfish lying on the cleaning table; however, my spirit said there was more to these two gentlemen than the smell of fish and rain-soaked outerwear. (Pause for Thought: “When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear’.”—Luke 1:41-42. Have you ever sensed there was more to a meeting with a stranger than what was happening through your physical senses? To what did you attribute it?)

I could tell they sensed more to me, as well. The questions started becoming more personal and the explanations more detailed. Then it finally happened. The question and explanation we all were waiting to hear—“Are you a Christian? What does Christ mean to you?” The younger of us stated he had recently, within the last couple of years, surrendered his heart to Jesus and enjoys cooking for his church’s wild game dinner outreach. The older of us declared he was the retired pastor of a church in Monroe, and it was he who led the younger to faith in Christ. The worship began. Our hunting and fishing adventures took second-place to the miracles Jesus had wrought in our lives and how the Holy Spirit was changing us daily. (Pause for Thought: “It gave me great joy to have some brothers come and tell about your faithfulness to the truth and how you continue to walk in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. Dear friend, you are faithful in what you are doing for the brothers, even though they are strangers to you. They have told the church about your love. You will do well to send them on their way in a manner worthy of God.”—3 John 3-6 When is the last time you were doing something menial or mundane only to have it turn into a worship-fest? Who was with you?)

I know our meeting was not by chance, and I know the hobby of fishing lends perfectly to my soul’s sense of the Holy Spirit when I meet fellow fishermen. Throughout the gospels, Jesus turned an ordinary outing on a lake or shore into a worship service. I know he does it with the many talents and hobbies He bestows upon His children. For the disciples who were fishermen and became fishers-of-men, no morning catch would ever be the same. (Pause for Thought: “I’m going out to fish,’ Simon Peter told them, and they said, ‘We’ll go with you’. So they got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that is was Jesus. He said, ‘Friends, haven’t you any fish? Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.’ When they did they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish. This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead.”—John 21:3-6,14. Has Jesus used your gifts or talents to make your spirit and soul aware of His presence and/or His presence in others? Have you thanked God for these gifts and talents and expressed your worship for the times He encounters you in your efforts?)


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Amazing Race, Amazing Grace

It looked hopeless.  The young man had never swum in a competition let alone a team relay.  By the time he touched the pool wall for the next swimmer to go, the relay was in last of the seven teams by a long ways.  But something began to change.  The next swimmer took off and managed to catch the field.  Though still in last, the relay team was still in the fight.  The third swimmer caught and overtook half the teams, and by the time the fourth and final swimmer finished his leg of the relay and the race, the team everyone thought would finish dead last ended up winning by a landslide…or waterslide.   (Pause for Thought:  “I have seen something else under the sun:  The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all.”—Ecclesiastes 9:11  Have you ever been asked to do something you felt you were not qualified to do?  Did you accept the challenge?  How did it turn out?)
 
My son was the second swimmer on the team that won the relay.  As a proud, and shocked, father, I can tell you watching this race was the highlight of my summer.  I asked my son about the thoughts going through his mind as he prepared to enter the water in a distant last place.  He replied, “Anthony (third swimmer) said he owed me if I got us back into the race.  I told him he didn’t owe me anything.  I’m swimming for first prize.”  His comment started me thinking about Jesus and His purpose on earth and how he handled it.  I can imagine him saying, “You don’t owe me anything (though we owe Him everything).  The debt will be paid.  I’m living and dying to the glory of the Father.”   (Pause for Thought:  “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.  Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”—Hebrews 12:1-2  What difficult, seemingly hopeless, circumstances are you facing?  How does knowing Jesus went through something as insurmountable as death help you in your struggle?  Is there someone with whom you can share your thoughts and feelings?)
 
The air became electric as the four boys received their first place awards.  Fans and spectators were still marveling at the tremendous comeback.  A jackhammer couldn’t remove the smile on the first swimmer’s face.  Only the coach stood in perfect confidence of what he just witnessed.  While people said they never thought the team would win the relay, he said he knew full well the outcome.  He knew the individual dynamic of all four swimmers, and how gracefully, under pressure, the entire team would finish first.   (Pause for Thought:  “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize?  Run in such a way as to get the prize.  Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training.  They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.”—I Corinthians 9:24-25.  How does knowing that Jesus finished first in life-living and knowing how he accomplished this feat help us as believers run our races?  What, do you think, are key attributes for us as Christ’s brothers and sisters to train and perfect as we live to win the crown?  How does grace factor into your training?)
 

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Victory in Energy Conservation

On May 1, I saw my first hummingbird of 2019.  I witnessed this tiny creature staring at his reflection in our sliding-glass door, as I refreshed myself after mowing with an iced tea and tunes.  It pleased my heart to know this bird had successfully made his 500 mile non-stop journey across the Gulf of Mexico.   (Pause for Thought:  “I said, ‘Oh, that I had the wings of a dove!  I would fly away and be at rest.”—Psalm 55:6.  Is something causing you unrest in your soul, or body, or spirit right now?  What do you do to find rest and calm?  How effective and lasting is your prescription for rest?)
 
Weighing no more than a copper penny, the ruby-throated hummingbird has been designed by God to illustrate the victory in conserving time and energy to achieve life purposes.  The hummingbird is so tiny; it uses energy an exorbitant rate.  To make its non-stop flight migration from Central America, over the Gulf of Mexico, to the United States at the end of every winter, the hummingbird will take a rest…a Sabbath.  It does something most other birds don’t—it hibernates for a night or two before its journey.  This allows the bird to store its energy reserves for the long flight.  Without this energy, the hummingbird will plummet into the Gulf of Mexico.   (Pause for Thought:  “If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my Holy Day, if you call the Sabbath a delight and the Lord’s Holy Day honorable, and if you honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, then you will find your joy in the Lord, and I will cause you to ride in triumph on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob.  For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”—Isaiah 58:13-14.  What causes your “feet” from honoring God and His day?  What have been the results in relationship to Jesus, others, and you?  What does calling the Sabbath a “delight” mean to you?)
 
A German proverb states, “What is the use of running when we are not on the right road?”  Even the hummingbird will exhaust itself in an attempt to use the exact perch hundreds of times after it has fallen or been removed.  Eventually, the bird will come to its senses and find another perch to start its seasonal rhythms for its life purpose of survival.  God took a rest after completing His goal and before continuing His present day purposes.  Shouldn’t we measure our ways of efficiency based on how our Lord efficiently completes His purposes?  Our Father knows how to work smarter instead of working harder.  Even the tiny hummingbird, whose wings provide lift and propulsion during downward and upward thrusts, is a reminder of God’s efficiency in and through us if we but wait on Him.   (Pause for Thought:  “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.”—Psalm 37:7.  Is there a difference in how the world obtains success and how God wants us to obtain success?  Is there a difference in the pace between the world’s way and God’s way?  Give an example as to why or why you don’t think there is a difference.)
 

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Remember Me

“Remember me?” the gentleman asked as he plopped down into the vacant seat next to me while I drank my coffee in my favorite haunt.  The answer to his questions was, “No.”  He stated his name in a slur-mumble, combination, and I shook my head in unrecognition and doubt.  Our common ground was supposedly high school until he dropped out to become a professional boxer.  His story rang a bell in my sub-conscious, but I still couldn’t place him.     (Pause for Thought:  “Then those who feared the Lord talked with each other.  A scroll of remembrance was written in His presence concerning those who feared the Lord and honored His name.”—Malachi 3:16.  Have you been recognized by someone you didn’t remember?  How did it make you feel?  Have you recognized someone who didn’t remember you?  What thoughts came to mind?)
 
He said he’d fallen on hard times, and he looked it.  His hand was poorly bandaged, and his clothes had seen better days.  He asked me for some money, but I had no cash or change.  Instead, I offered to buy him some food or drink from the coffee bar, and he determined an orange juice would suit him.  While we waited in line, he spoke of my hometown and the high school I went to; even mentioning names of people I was acquainted with over 30 years ago.  We had trod the same ground.  (Pause for Thought:  “And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them saying, ‘This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me’.”—Luke 22:19; “When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them.  Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight.”—Luke 24:30-31  What strong memories do you have of certain meals?  Are they fond memories or hurt-filled ones?  Have you ever considered Christ eating a meal with you?  What do you imagine mealtime with Jesus looks and sounds like?)
 

He guzzled his orange juice in a minute and gave me a large, appreciative, smile.  He shook my hand and left the shop waving good-bye through the window.  My spirit was immediately filled with the image of the scripture, “Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?’  The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me’.”    (Pause for Thought:  “On the day I shall act’, says the Lord Almighty, ‘They will be my treasured possession.  I will spare them, just as the father has compassion and spares his son who serves him.  And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not’.”—Malachi 3:17-18  How important is it, for us, to remember and recognize God?  How do you remember and recognize Him?  How often do you do so?  How important, to you, is it for God to remember and recognize you?  What will He remember you for thinking and doing?)


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Sincere Flattery

To my four year-old mind, the greatest people living were my dad and cowboys.  Now I didn’t exactly understand what a plumber did, though I knew because my dad was one, we got to eat and live in a nice house. I knew cowboys punched cattle, ate outside, and shot pistols because I saw them do these things on TV.  The thing that brought these two icons together for me in my evaluation of greatness was shaving.  That’s right, shaving whiskers with a razor.  The great people in my life shaved.  I wanted to be great.  Therefore, I wanted a razor and shave, so I could be great too.   (Pause for Thought:  “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”—Ephesians 5:1-2.   Who did you imitate as a child?  Why?  Who do you imitate now?  Why?)
 
Oscar Wilde said, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery that mediocrity can pay to greatness.”  As I finish these little articles regarding “living up” to God’s grace filled majesty through appreciation, devotion, and imitation, I realize I can never earn the place (Heaven) or position (Royal Priest) He has given me, but I look the part and give glory to God by being like His son, Jesus Christ, who GAVE.  Being who I am in Christ will result in my giving ME as a forGIVER, GIVER of tithes and offerings, GIVER of talents and abilities, GIVER of time and energy, GIVER of attention and encouragement, and so on.  Paul calls this living a life of sacrifice.  (Pause for Thought:  “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship”—Romans 12:1.  How have you consciously tried to imitate Jesus this week?  What were the results?  Were the results consistent with the results Jesus received?  How do you/can you know?)
 

I often ask my wife and son if I look like Jesus to them.  I don’t mean in physical appearance, and they don’t think as such.  If I have looked like Jesus to them, it’s been in the way I gave.  They don’t say I look like Jesus because I did my devotions, or taught a Sunday School class, or wrote an article.  They say I look like Jesus if I gave encouragement to them or someone else, or if I gave to someone in ministry out of my pocket, or if I gave love and attention to an unlovable/unnoticeable, or even if I gave my story (testimony) to someone who didn’t know Jesus the way I do. Cowboys gave, and still give, me great pleasure to watch.  My dad gave me a place (house) and position (physical) being on this earth.  My heavenly Father gave me completeness in everything, including all time (eternity), to share it with Him.  I think He is worth imitating.  (Pause for Thought:  “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.”—Philippians 2:5.  How do you feel, emotionally, about living a life of sacrifice?  How is Paul’s instruction to us in Romans different than the world’s instruction to us?  What is happening and has happened when the world’s way is followed?  What happened to you because Jesus lived a sacrificial life?  Who will you imitate?)


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Collections & Revelations

My son and I collect baseball cards.  I’ve been collecting since 1977, and he started seven years ago when he was five years of age.  It’s a great pastime for the two of us to be together, and it’s interesting to discuss why a player’s card means so much to us.  We have our sentiments, team preferences, player performances, and other reasons why we get excited to open a pack of cards and get who or what we get.  In fact, New Year’s Eve kicks-off our baseball card collecting for the year as tradition dictates we each open a box of unwrapped cards and compare who got the “best” for our endeavor. (Pause for Thought:  “In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers, to keep away from every brother who is idle and does not live according to the tradition (teaching) you received from us”—II Thessalonians 3:6.  Do you have any collections and/or traditions that become especially meaningful to you during the Holy Days?  How have you conveyed the reasons for your traditional interests to your family?  Have you been able to use these collections/traditions as a way of revealing Christ’s work in you and for you? )
 
There is a monetary value placed on these cards by collectors and appraisers.  Some cards are worth a lot of money right out of the pack, though they may depreciate in value over time, while others might actually increase in value.  Those cards with unique “flaws” may actually be worth more than if they were issued as intended.  What fascinates me about these cards is they are just that – cards.  They’re photos of a person on one side of cardboard or thick paper stock with a bunch of numbers on the other.  These cards are really only worth what someone is willing to pay for them.  (Pause for Thought:  “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field.  When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field”—Matthew 13:44.  Have you ever thought about how valuable you are or how much you’re worth?  Jesus has made us as valuable as He is.  By giving up his place at His Father’s side, and by giving up His life on earth to redeem—purchase—us back from the prince of the air, He has given us the value of Himself.  Where do you look to find your value?  How do you and your family “value” others?)
 
My son and I like to look on EBay or thumb through a card price guide to see just what people MIGHT be willing to pay for our pieces of cardboard.  We like to sort them out according to our preferences, and we actually have a “baseball room” where we store and display our cards.  To be honest, the cards we like to show off aren’t “worth” that much, because the cards aren’t of superstars, and most people would pass them by.  However, it’s not the monetary price for the cards that make them special to us; it’s the relational sentiment, memories, and stories that mean everything.  Isn’t that like the Kingdom of Heaven?  (Pause for Thought:  “Yet to all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become Children of God—born not of natural decent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.—John 1:12-13.  How can you and your family value others at Christmas the way Christ values us?  What will you teach your children to be WORTHwhile over the Holy Days?)
 

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all God’s Children!


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Make Room

Read the story of the Shunammite Woman in II Kings 4:8-37; 8:1-6

In a day and age when God’s people had rejected His directions and those who supplied them, a woman maintained the divine order of hospitality by inviting Elisha to eat and relax in her and her husband’s home.  Not only did the Shunammite woman provide meals and conversation, she also made a room within her household for Elisha’s learning and teaching of God’s eternal principles.  This resulted in the blessing of a son–by her increased faith, the loss of her hopes–in the death of her son, and a victory over death, corruption, and sin–by the resurrection of her son and the re-establishment of her faith-filled legacy.  Her faith became surrender as the Lord’s influence through Elisha invaded her home.  (Pause for Thought:  Why did Elisha appreciate the room the Shunammite woman gave him?  What made the Shunammite’s household different from other Israeli homes of the time?  In what ways was the Shunammite’s household blessed by the presence of God’s prophet)\
 
Israel had stopped hosting the Lord’s servants during Elisha’s time.  Prophets were considered outlaws who had become outdated and unwanted.  As a consequence, the people had become disconnected in their relationship with their Father to the point of killing His ministers and rejecting His decrees (In his pride the wicked does not seek Him; in all his thoughts there is NO ROOM for God–Psalm 10:4)
 
While growing up, my mom and dad would often host missionaries, gospel singers, and preachers and their families as they remained away from home to minister to our church family.  This provided my sister and me an opportunity to have extended or one-on-one conversations with these ministers of the faith resulting in great worship, testimony, and witnessing.  I asked my dad why our family hosted these people so often.  His simple reply has remained in my soul for my entire life—“We sometimes entertain angels without knowing it”.  (Hebrews 13:1-3).  I believe what my father said is true, and I have confirming results.  My marriage is a direct result of my aunt and uncle’s faithful hospitality to my then future wife and mother to my son.  Their generosity connected with my parents’ desire to see their family and family friends come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ as Lord and savior resulting in Renee’s and my engagement to each other.  I’m a blessed man because of a legacy of hospitality and making room for Christ.  (Pause for Thought:  How has hospitality benefited you as a host?  How has it benefited those you’ve hosted?  How has your hospitality blessed others within your family?)
 
Faithful hospitality is what Mary and Joseph displayed when they made room for God’s only Son when He left home.  Like the Shunammite woman, Mary and her family would know first-hand the blessing, loss, and victory when providing room for the Lord.  “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered.  “May it be to me as you have said.”  Then the angel left her.—Luke 1:38  (Pause for Thought:  How will you and your family be demonstrating hospitality around Christmas this year?  What do you want your children to learn and know through your and their hospitality?  How can and will Christ be the influence as you make room for Him?)
 

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