What Do We Need to Know for 2013?

2013 Book
This week we are spending a little time reflecting. Our 2012 “book” is closing. The spine of the book is worn from being opened and shut 365 times. The cover has a couple of stains. Many pages have been dog-eared for special remembrance. Attempts were made to remove other pages, but they remain stubbornly intact. Scanning through the book, we see the life lessons learned in 2012. What do we need to know for 2013?

A new year brings new resolutions and goals. Usually, we set attainable goals.  Work will be required but the success rate is realistic.

“Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.” (Jeremiah 33:3, NIV)

What if we make a list of unrealistic goals? Things that are outside of our own reach? It’s reasonable for me to lose ten pounds, not easy, but an achievable target. Raising ten-thousand dollars for local food pantries seems an unattainable goal. I wouldn’t know where to begin. I don’t have the skills or knowledge for the job. It’s out of my comfort zone. Too much work and too little time. I could come up with fifty solid reasons why this would not be on my 2013 list of goals. It is easier to say I’ll donate twenty cans of food each month.

Dare we ask God to give us an impossible dream? What would that be? To go back to college? Change careers? Restore a relationship that ended long ago? Start a new ministry? Love unloveable people? Buy a house? Sell everything and become a missionary?

Are we brave enough to ask God to show us great and unsearchable things? Or do we “play it safe” and stick with what we already know? Do the possible or dream the impossible?

“For nothing is impossible with God.” (Luke 1:37, NLT)

One thing we need to know for 2013 is to trust God’s power more and rely less on our own power. God is ready to open the floodgates of his love and wisdom. He has great things to teach us this year.

Imagine he is placing a brand new book in your hands. Not a blemish on it. Pristine now, but he knows, at times, it’s going to be mishandled. As a believer, it’s okay, he’s got you covered. God already knows what is coming your way this year. Nothing surprises him.

He allows you to make choices and wants your input. Your 2013 book has plenty of blank pages for you to decide what to write. What will it be?  Do you want an interesting, but mediocre, account of your accomplishments? Or will it be an exciting adventure novel with impossibilities becoming miraculous realities?

Be strong and courageous. Invite God to plant an impossible dream in your heart. Ask him what you need to know for 2013.














A Pondering Heart

by Sally Matheny

"Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart." (Luke 2:19)
God knew Mary’s heart. It was humble enough and trusting enough to care for His treasure. With God's help, Mary's heart would also grow strong enough.

Mary was afraid when she first saw the angel. He comforted her, but how her heart must have raced at the news of her pregnancy. She, a virgin, would mother the Son of the Most High!

After the angel left, Mary was so excited she could do nothing but pack her bags and hurry to her cousin Elizabeth’s house. For three months, they enjoyed each other’s company. Praying and giggling in delight about both of their miracle babies.

The time finally came for Mary to give birth. Was she concerned discovering her birthing room was a stable? Or that God’s Son would spend his first night in an animal’s manger? Perhaps after everything she had already experienced, she did not worry. Mary fully trusted in God’s provision.

Later, Mary sat gazing at the newborn in her arms. She and Joseph knew he was God’s Son. Elizabeth knew as well. Would others believe?

Mary may have been surprised to hear the staffs of shepherds tapping outside. They were asking if they may come in and worship the Child. Her humble heart was overwhelmed with love and joy. Holding Jesus close for warmth, she could not fully understand the magnitude of the gift she cradled. Angels were praising God and telling of his birth. Strangers were coming to bow down before him.

Words were acutely inadequate to describe what she felt. She could only treasure the moments and ponder them in her heart.

What a night! Joyful but exhausted, Mary sang the baby to sleep. Perhaps she sang the same song she had sung to God only nine months earlier. Gently swaying…pondering and praising. Remembering the miracles and wondering what lie ahead. Praising God for his mercy and gift of love.

What has God given you to ponder?
What are you treasuring in your heart this Christmas?


Ten Ways to Prepare a Place for Christ

People are counting down the final days until Christmas. Checking off the gift lists and wrapping packages. The aroma of cookies and candy waft from kitchens across the globe. Christmas trees are already aglow and stockings line up the mantles. Christmastime brings lots of preparations. Are we preparing a place for Christ?

Saint Nicholas might be glad to know people want to follow his example of generosity. However, sadness would fill his heart if he knew the extent and motivation behind some gift-giving today.  Saint Nicholas secretly gave gifts long ago because of his humble spirit. His heart and focus belonged to God.

As final preparations are made let’s ask God what He would like for Christmas. Include these things on your calendar and “to do” list. Talk with your family and friends and decide ways you can prepare a place for Christ this week.

Some suggestions:

v  Keep a manger in front of your tree to draw focus on Christ rather than the gifts.

v  Set up a Nativity scene. Have family members read from the Bible, or tell what they know about each piece.

v  Encourage children to take a break from the words, “I want…” and think about ways to serve others.

v  Participate in church activities. Check your local paper for events such as a live nativity scene and Christ-centered Christmas programs.

v  Share baked goods with those less fortunate. Volunteer at a homeless shelter or soup kitchen. Sing Christmas carols.

v  Buy gifts for those in need. Try including a gift that shares the good news and hope of Jesus Christ.

v  Invite someone, who does not have a family, over for a meal.

v  Include the real meaning of Christmas in your outdoor decorations for others to see.

v  Donate to a charity that spreads the gospel such as Samaritan’s Purse and Compassion International.

v  Carve out time each night for a special family devotion. There are many great Christmas devotion books to choose from or you can read from the Bible.


God loved us so much he sent Jesus. He came to make a way for us to live forever. He is preparing a place for us when we leave this earth. Until then, shouldn’t we prepare a place for him here?


“And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.”  John 14:3


What about you? How are you keeping Jesus in your Christmas preparations, in your life, and in your heart?




Joy, Pure Joy

There were only two wise men, and they were twins. Traveling afar meant walking from the back church pew down to the front. That’s pretty good since these wise men are only in the first grade. Of course, they have traveled farther. Another forty-feet led straight to the bathroom. Nevertheless, even with their traveling freedom, the wise men were not joyful.

Ahhh…the children’s Christmas play practice is in full swing. The first night of practice went well. “Joseph,” a redheaded second-grader, proudly escorted his older and much taller “Mary.” Giggles trickled through the room, mine included. I’m not sure Mary likes her prearranged marriage with little Zachaeus but she’s a good sport. I told my son (a.k.a. Zach, Zachaeus, Joseph) he could wear boots. He firmly responded, “I’m plenty tall enough, thank you very much.” At least “Joseph” is confident.

The shepherds were small and quiet. The angel did not terrify them. It was hearing instructions to walk the aisles and shout, “Jesus is born! Jesus is born!” They practiced sharing the good news. One whispered it. One mouthed the words and the other used mental telepathy.

It was during the five-minute break when the wise men expressed their concerns to the director.

We want to tell people that Jesus is born,” they cried. Apparently, delivering gifts to the Christ child was not enough.

The shy shepherds quickly agreed to exchange places with the wise men. Excited about the beautiful gifts they will silently offer Jesus.

After the break, the children practiced their new parts. The twin wise men gleefully became shepherds. They raised their eyebrows with anticipation and repeatedly asked,

“When can we say it?”

“Is it time to go to tell the people?”

Finally, the time arrived when the two newly ordained shepherds skipped down the aisles of the church. They loudly proclaimed,

“Jesus is born! Jesus is born! Jesus is born!”

Their toothy grins brought smiles, even to the tired parents sitting in the back. They exuded joy, pure joy.

How about you? Whom do you identify with?

Mary? She had surprises in her life. Some were wonderful. Some were disappointing, some sad. Ultimately, she trusted God with the details Do you have faith God is in control, even when you don’t comprehend everything?

Joseph? He had surprises too. He wrestled with decisions. He loved God and he loved Mary. Even when he didn’t understand, he stayed by Mary’s side. He trusted and obeyed God. Are you obedient to God, even when it’s difficult?

Perhaps you’re similar to the wise men. You search for Jesus daily, seeking to worship Him. You joyfully give the gifts you have to offer. Standing firm in your beliefs, you defend Christ.

Or are you like a poor, quiet shepherd? Do you look at the gifts of others and wish you had more to offer?  The angels spoke first to the humble in spirit. The shepherds gave their time. They left their work to offer the Lord their adoration. Experiencing God’s love, they presented their service. They spread the good news to others. Not all may have shouted it, but they sure did share it. They were authentic and people were amazed at what they heard.

Let’s be obedient like Mary and Joseph, trusting God in all things. Like the kings, let’s freely give and be bold for Christ. But let’s leave our crowns at the manger and run barefoot through the hills like the shepherds. Eagerly sharing how our lives changed after meeting Jesus. Spread joy, pure joy.