Friday, November 27, 2015


 The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain: And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it. (Isaiah 40:3-5)

*A special time of year is upon us—the season of Advent.  This week’s post will serve as an introduction to my series on Advent.  Be watching for an additional post the week of Christmas (unless the Lord leads me differently).


Advent is considered the beginning of the church year.  “The word Advent means ‘coming’ or ‘arrival’.  The focus of the entire season is the celebration of the birth of Jesus the Christ in his [sic] First Advent, and the anticipation of the return of Christ the King in his [sic] Second Advent.”[1]

This year (2015) Advent starts on November 29, and concludes four weeks later on Christmas Eve.  It is at this time of year that we celebrate Jesus’ first coming while looking forward to His second coming.  It is a time of preparation and expectation.  It is a time to quiet ourselves and to ponder exactly what it was that Jesus did for us. Click to Tweet (Realize that Jesus did not have to come but He did!)   


While you are making preparations for Christmas, remember who and what you are really celebrating.  Remember the Reason for the Season!  If Jesus had not come to earth—to live and walk among us, to die a horrendous criminals’ death on the cross, and to rise again—the world would be a much different place.  I certainly would not be at my computer composing posts like this!  Life would be even more out of control!

God sent His Son into this suffering and evil world as an innocent infant, to grow up and live a completely sinless life.  Click to Tweet  And though He was not guilty of any wrongdoing, He died the death of a common criminal.  The reason for all of this was so Jesus could take upon Himself the punishment you and I deserve for our sins by dying in our place.  He did this because He loved us, sinful though we are.  But Jesus’ story doesn’t end at the grave.  He rose from the dead and rules in Heaven today.

And now, He reaches out to you, offering new life and hope.  Right now, you can accept those gifts.  You can invite Him to come into your life and your heart.  His love can bring you a new life of peace and joy.  All you must do is confess your sins to God, receive His forgiveness and by faith accept Jesus as your Savior and Lord.  That’s the true meaning of Christmas—a miracle of God’s love given to the world 2,000 years ago.  Why not receive that gift of love for yourself today?  It is the best gift you will ever receive.[2]

As we prepare to welcome the Christ child again, spend some time reflecting on what Christ’s birth means to you. Click to Tweet

What does Christ’s birth mean to you?  How are you preparing to celebrate His birth?

Consider reaching out to those who are spending their first Christmas without a loved one.  Click to Tweet  It will be a sad, difficult time.  Simply being a quiet presence—ready and available to listen—will be a blessing for many people.  


Please do not forget your single friends, family, neighbors, or those in your church who will be alone on Christmas Day—consider inviting them to join with your family (no matter how simple and informal the gathering is)—the blessings will flow both ways!  Whatever you do, please do not tell them, “Oh, God is with you…” and then walk off, ignoring their hurting heart and heart-felt desire to fellowship with others on Christmas Day.  Your family may be the only family they will get to experience…EVER. 

Please join me in prayer:

Dear Father, reveal Yourself to us as we prepare our hearts to celebrate the first coming of Your Son, so long ago.  May we be the voice in our wilderness, preparing the way for the Lord.  Thank You for the gift of Your Son.  As we welcome Him; we also eagerly anticipate His second coming.  Remind us to focus on the real reason for the Season.  Help us to not miss You and those around us who are in need in our busyness and our focus on our family or on ourselves.  We pray for Your comfort to surround those grieving the loss of loved ones during this season, as well as for those who are walking a difficult journey due to illness, job loss, and more, may they truly feel your presence in a special way.  Show us where we need to be Your love with skin on.  In Jesus’ name, we pray.  Amen.

From My Heart to Yours,


[1] From  article on Advent by Dennis Bratcher
[2] From December 2005 church newsletter (Knoxville First UMC), written by Pastor Neil Montz

Friday, November 20, 2015


“Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers;”
(Ephesians 1:15-16 KJV)

During my graduate school years, I presented a variety of programs in my residence hall and at the Wesley Foundation, one of my favorite programs to present was on the topic of thankfulness—at one point I had several versions.  I attempted to present this program around Thanksgiving and/or shortly before finals—a very busy and stressful time for students!  A time when it is hard to be thankful! 

The programs were not elaborate or even all that time consuming; they were focused on being thankful (thinking about things, places, and people we were thankful for).  Due to the hectic and stressful nature of being a college student it was easy to lose focus on what really mattered and to be thankful for the important things/people (no matter how small) in life. 


Life continues to be hectic, even after college/graduate school; it is so easy to get distracted by unimportant things and lose sight of what, and especially, who really matters.  For many of us, we are blessed beyond measure and have so much more than most of the world, yet it is easy to forget that in the workaday world.


Those of us, who have Jesus as Savior and Lord, should be among the most thankful people around. Click to Tweet  In Jesus, we have been forgiven of our sins and have a multitude of blessings.  Yet, sometimes, we forget just how much the Lord has given us and has done for us.     

Considering taking some time during this busy holiday season (and every day of the year) to reflect on what and who you are thankful for—you may even want to let people who you are thankful for know it!

Have fun with it!  I imagine that your perspective on life will change, if you are persistent about doing this. 


What are you thankful for?


Try listing at least three things you are thankful for each day until the end of the year.  It is fine to be thankful for the simplest of things in your life.  Then read back through them and rejoice.


Please join with me in prayer:

Heavenly Father, we thank You for all the things and people in our lives.  In Your Word we learn that we are to be thankful in all things but not for all things.  Help us to change our perspective so that we realize just how much we do have to be thankful for; we have so much in abundance compared to many places throughout the world.  Remind us that all we have is from You.  Help us to remember to count our blessings daily and particularly when we are busy or under a lot of stress.  In our busy lives remind us to not take people or You for granted; encourage us to place others ahead of ourselves, serving them in the name of Jesus.  In Jesus’ Name, we pray.  Amen.

From My Heart to Yours,


Dear Readers, I would like to wish you and your families a blessed Thanksgiving.  Enjoy and celebrate all of God’s richest blessings during this season of thanks.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 13, 2015

Harvest Time

“Then saith he unto his disciples, ‘The harvest is truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest.’”  (Matthew 9:37-38)

As we progress through November farmers are beginning to wrap up their season of harvesting the seeds they planted last spring.  The seeds are planted by farmers; however, it is God that brings the growth.  He sends rain and warmth that allow plants to grow, yet it takes the care and nurture of humans for plants to not get choked out by weeds.   

The metaphor of planting seeds and tending to them and then harvesting can be seen in evangelism—planting and sowing the seeds of the gospel in the lives of others.  Now is the day, there is still time to share the truth that is found in Jesus Christ alone.  He is the waythe truth, and the life.  Jesus is the only way to heaven, not one way among many.  Please do not just take my word for it; check out the Word of God and read the words of Jesus!    


Soon we will begin preparing for Advent (a time to celebrate and ponder the first coming of Jesus Christ and prepare for His return); while remembering that Jesus grew and lived amongst us—He experienced everything we experience.  We can turn to Him in confidence.  He understands us perfectly.  He is our high priest interceding for us.  This should motivate us to share Jesus with those in our lives.   

Now more than ever, we should be engaged in sharing the gospel with those around us.  It is important to remember that for us as Christians, the harvest is great but there are few to work, as we see above in the Scripture from Matthew.  Time is getting short!  One day it will be too late to share!

In John 4:35 we are reminded that the harvest is now, therefore, we need to be ready to harvest now.  Are we feeling this sense of urgency?  If not, why?  The eternal souls of men, women, boys, and girls are in peril.  Just how valuable is a soul?      

We have a wonderful story to share with others about what Christ has done in and with our lives!  It does not have to be dramatic, such as deliverance from drug addiction.  Some people will never hear the Good News unless we tell them.  Do not forget: the best way to get started with this endeavor is with a lot of prayer for guidance and strength.  Then let our actions and how we treat others speak for us.  However, we will also need to use our words, our testimony speak to others.    

What do our actions say about us?  Do we walk our talk or does or walk say something far different than our talk?

How do we go about sharing Jesus and the plan of salvation?

Our focus, especially at first, should be on caring for the person first—earning the right to share Christ.  Love, we are to share Jesus with others in love—no condemnation—love, allow the Holy Spirit to do the work He is to do.  If we allow our flesh to take over, we can do far more harm than good. 

In the end, the things we do for Jesus, with no expectation of recognition or praise will last for all eternity.  We will not know until we reach heaven how much good we have done for the kingdom.

As I was preparing this entry, a song came to mind (a thanksgiving hymn); it is one that I am not very familiar with We Plow the Fields and Scatter

Please join me in prayer:

Dear Lord, we come to You eager and also with a degree of fear to be sent out to Your harvest fields.  Prepare us to lead others to You.  Help us to listen well to what others tell us, so that we can help them effectively and not cause them to be lost forever.  Provide us with the words and tools that we will need.  May how we live our lives point to You and match the words we say.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

From My Heart to Yours,


Friday, November 6, 2015

Thankfulness in All Things

“Rejoice evermore.  Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”
(1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 KJV)

According to the above Scripture, what are we to give thanks for?  EVERYTHING!  With all that is happening in the world today, it is hard to be thankful—loss of loved ones, loss of jobs, loss of homes, and loss of financial security—yet that is exactly the perspective our Lord desires us to demonstrate as His children.

Listening to the news can make it hard to be thankful—wars and rumors of war, terrorism, suppression of basic human rights, refugees seeking a safe place, squelching freedom of speech—yet we are beseeched throughout the Scriptures, especially in the New Testament, to be thankful no matter what.

We see this attitude of thankfulness—rejoicing in suffering—for the name of Jesus in various places in the Scriptures, Acts, in particular demonstrates this.  How do we feel (or will we feel) in suffering for the name of Jesus?

It is important to note that we are to be thankful in all things not for all things. Realizing this makes (or should make) a huge difference!  

The choice is ours as to how we will respond to the crises that come our way.  Will we get bitter? Complain to anyone who will listen?

Or will we demonstrate a peace, a thankfulness that is different than what the world would expect?

Have you ever met anyone who was able to be thankful no matter what? 

He or she could be going through a very rough time—facing many losses, yet he or she was still thankful.  Perhaps, others looking at his or her life would think, “How does he or she do it?”  “If I was going through that, I would not be able to go on—life just would not be worth the effort.” 

What do you suppose allowed them to have that type of attitude? 

One of my master’s thesis participants (who is also a dear friend) is able to do just that.  She is thankful for what she has everyday—she spends time talking with God about it too.  Why is she able to do this?  I believe it is her relationship with and dependence on God (Ephesians 5:20).  Cultivating this attitude is life changing. Try it for yourself!  I imagine that you will find that it changes how you see and react to the world.   

The apostle Paul learned how to be content in any and all situations (read the book of Philippians [a book full of joy and thankfulness] in the New Testament to see this attitude in action)—it was written from prison when Paul was near the end of his earthly life; he looked beyond his present circumstances to the future that awaited him in heaven. 

What do we have to gain by doing this?  From my perspective, we have much to gain—more than we can begin to realize.  It may not change our situation; however, it will change how we view and respond to our situation.  Those around us will notice the difference and wonder what is going on.  What a testimony we can share with those who are going through their own difficulties and challenges!

How are you doing when it comes to being thankful?

Please join with me in prayer:

God of all comfort, we admit that it is difficult to be thankful for all things, particularly when crises or suffering come that knock us off balance.  Help us to choose to be thankful for the bad and good in our lives.  Draw us so close to You that we depend fully on You.  Nudge us with reminders to pray continually.  Teach us to have joy and thankfulness despite what is going on in our lives.  May we desire to be thankful always no matter what the circumstances life brings our way, using Paul and others as our examples.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

From My Heart to Yours,


Sunday, November 1, 2015

Christian Persecution

Note: What follows is an edited post from 2013. May we always remember our brothers and sisters who worship in closed or restricted countries!  

Today, Sunday, November 1, 2015, is International Day for the Persecuted Church.  Will you remember in prayer those who worship the Lord in the face of great loss, great persecution?  For more information on this day and general information on the persecuted church see:;

“Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory…”  (1 Peter 1:8 KJV)

Peter’s words must have brought some comfort and encouragement to the early Gentile Christians.  These Christians were facing extreme persecution under the Roman government led by Emperor Nero.  This persecution has not ended, it continues on today.

The following passages from Hebrews should be encouraging to every Christian, but especially encouraging to those enduring unimaginable hardship due to the name of Jesus.  

13 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. 14 For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country.15 And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out , they might have had opportunity to have returned . 16 But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.  (Hebrews 11: 13-16 KJV)

1 Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, 2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds. 4 Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.  (Hebrews 12:1-4 KJV)

Currently throughout the world there are many countries where to be a Christian is a death sentence or at least a guarantee to lose home, employment, family, and so much more.  In the face of all this—men, women, and children demonstrate great faith in their Savior—Jesus Christ.   

At this point, in America we have it fairly easy—we can worship freely and without fear.  How has that affected our faith?  Do we have the faith that would sustain us, even if that freedom was taken away?  Some day, we may find ourselves in a very similar situation to our brothers and sisters in Christ in places like North Korea and China, to name two.

I believe we can learn much from our Christian brothers and sisters in the persecuted church.  They know what it means to rejoice in the face of things that are not joyful.  Learn about them and from them.  Remember to pray for those who are suffering all because they refuse to turn from Jesus.    

What about us…?  What would Peter say to us, to encourage us in our Christian walk?  Do we love and believe in Jesus?  Do we rejoice with joy unspeakable?  May we be found faithful!   

How will we respond one day when to claim the name of Jesus will cost us everything? May we be found faithful!

Please join me in prayer:

Dear Father, we love You and believe in You, even though we do not see You.  Open our eyes and hearts to Your presence among us.  It is because of You that we can rejoice—rejoice in all things and glory in Your name.  We lift up to You our brothers and sisters in Christ, who cannot worship freely but worship knowing that it may cost them their lives; grant them Your peace and love and protection.  Lord, prepare us who currently worship in safety and freedom to one day lose that freedom—strengthen us to stand strong in our faith, counting the cost worth it.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

From My Heart to Yours,