Blessing Tree

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas is a wonderful time to remind ourselves of all the blessings in our lives. I am abundantly blessed.

I am blessed to have faith in a Savior who was born on earth, lived as a man, died, was buried, and then resurrected to give me eternal life.

I am blessed by a family who is as close as a family can be. We love each other and like to spend time together. We laugh and play and eat and worship together.

I am blessed with friends who are kind and fun and loyal.

My faith and family and friends are my greatest treasures in life.

For my blessing tree this year, I have asked every guest in my home during the holiday to write down a blessing they have received and add it to my blessing garland. The red, white, and green garland is the perfect accent for the tree that holds my special ornaments made and collected over the years. The tree is filled with memories of my children and holds their handcrafted decorations and pictures. By hosting several holiday events, my tree reflects many blessings: family, health, grandchildren, faith, friends. It is heartwarming to read blessing after blessing. I didn’t read one blessing that referred to anything materialistic. Each person took time to give thanks to God for his goodness.

As we look ahead to 2013 let’s continue to thank God for his goodness and claim the promises of Scripture. God wants to bless us abundantly. We are not promised financial prosperity, but God promises us spiritual blessings of peace, love, joy, forgiveness that exceed any financial blessing we can imagine.

LORD Almighty, blessed is the one who trusts in you. (Psalm 84:12)

 Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, LORD (Psalm 89:15)

Blessed are those who fear the LORD,
who find great delight in his commands.
Their children will be mighty in the land;
the generation of the upright will be blessed.
Wealth and riches are in their houses,
and their righteousness endures forever. (Psalm 112:1-3)

But blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him.
They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit. (Jeremiah 17:7-8)

Choose to focus on God’s blessings!


Monday, December 10, 2012

My soul, wait only upon God and silently submit to Him; for my hope and expectation are from Him. Psalm 62:5

During this Advent season one of the words I’m dwelling on is expectations. I loved reading Charles Dickens' Great Expectations in my 9th grade English class. Born in humble circumstances and poorly educated, Pip's great expectations were to become a wealthy and educated gentleman. His life was suddenly turned upside down when he was visited by a London lawyer to inform him that he had come into the great expectations of handsome property and would be trained as a gentleman on the behalf of an anonymous benefactor. Unfortunately, Pip’s financial and social rise also resulted in an emotional and moral decline as he focused on wealth and status.

Perhaps a better role model for living in expectation is Simeon, the honorable Jew who lived in eager anticipation of the coming Christ.

“Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord's Christ. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God…” Luke 2:25-28

Simeon was a righteous man who lived his life waiting with expectation, eagerly looking for the “consolation of Israel,” the one who would fulfill the hopes and dreams of the Jews. Imagine be known as one who was so filled with God’s spirit that he lived a life excited about coming Christ. Imagine living a life, day after day, with excitement and anticipation of the Messiah. For generations, the promise that a Messiah would be born in Bethlehem was passed on from father to son, from mother to daughter, and from family to family. After centuries of waiting, God’s promise came true as Simeon held the expected one in his arms. In the baby Jesus, Simeon saw the long awaited one, the fulfillment of the prophecy.

Living in expectation is an important part of life because it brings with it hope and excitement. During this advent season we are to commemorate the birth of Jesus but we are also to live with eager anticipation for his return.

Is it possible to devote our lives to the eager expectation that Simeon demonstrated?

Isaiah 40:31 shows us what happens in our lives when we live in eager expectation for God.

"But those who wait for the Lord [who expect, look for, and hope in Him] shall change and renew their strength and power; they shall lift their wings and mount up [close to God] as eagles [mount up to the sun]; they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint or become tired." (Amplified Bible)

We will gain strength and power. We will draw closer to God. We will run and not become tired. I would like to stir up my expectations but what does that mean?

Philippians 1:20 tells us how our lives will look when we eagerly for Christ.

"For I live in eager expectation and hope that I will never do anything that causes me shame, but that I will always be bold for Christ, as I have been in the past, and that my life will always honor Christ, whether I live or I die." (NLT)

When we are committed to expectant living, we choose to live a life that doesn’t cause shame, is bold for Christ, and honors him.

As we anticipate the return on Christ, here are some ways to live with expectancy:

• Ask God to stir up your heart with a spirit of expectancy.

• Read scriptures that focus on the blessed hope we have in life eternal with Christ and with his return to earth.

• Remain faithful to your biblical purpose: to glorify God and edify others.

• Live in love and serve in ministry

• Surround yourself with others who choose to live a life of hope and anticipation for Christ’s return.

“Come, thou long expected Jesus!”

Be Prepared

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Do you recognize the emblems in the pictures? They represent the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. I proudly wore the uniform of the Brownies and Girl Scouts and remember each week reciting the motto, “Be prepared.” The 1947 Girl Scout handbook put it this way, “A Girl Scout is ready to help out wherever she is needed. Willingness to serve is not enough; you must know how to do the job well, even in an emergency.” We learned all sorts of skills to help us to be prepared for whatever situation we were in.

This week marks a special time in the life of the church as we begin the Advent season. Advent is another way of saying, “Be prepared.” We begin sort of a countdown to Christmas. That countdown began for me weeks ago. I’m preparing my house for a Christmas Tour of Homes so I’ve been a busy elf readying the house for visitors. I’ve brought out the trees, ornaments, lights, and household decorations, all in cranberry, gold, and green, in order to create a festive atmosphere in my home. It’s pretty exhausting getting prepared for an event, isn’t it!

And there’s the shopping and cooking I do to prepare for Christmas celebrations. I have begun the gift buying for family and friends. Even with online purchasing such a convenience, there’s still a lot of thought and planning that goes into my purchases. Oh, and all the food preparations. I need to consider the perfect cookies to make for the annual cookie swap with the moms’ group I lead. And Christmas dinner for the family is at my house, so I need to make sure I’m prepared with plenty of food and just the right table decorations.

Oh, yes, I’m getting prepared for a Christmas filled with festive decorations, beautifully wrapped presents, and scrumptious food. But…isn’t there much more preparation that needs to be done? I really need to prepare my heart for Jesus. The Advent season is the time to commemorate the First Coming of Christ and to prepare for the Second Coming of Christ. Jesus promised that he would return to earth and that we must watch and be prepared for his coming. We know when Christmas happens each year, but we do not know when Christ will return. How do we prepare? We need to busy ourselves doing the things he taught us by living out of twofold biblical purpose: Glorify God and edify others. When we remember to show our love for God and one another, we are preparing the greatest event we Christians will experience – the return of our Savior to the earth.

So…during the Advent season I will take time to experience the real joy of Christmas. I’m going to focus each week of the season on one of four words that help me to experience a prayerful Advent.

Week 1: Expectancy - looking forward to Jesus’ coming with excitement and hope

Week 2: Preparation – taking time to prepare my heart for the Christmas season by spending time daily in prayer and meditation

Week 3: Faith – examining where I am in my spiritual journey and determining where I need to be

Week 4: Promise – reflecting on the promises of God to be with me always and making promises of my own to God

“My soul finds rest in God alone; My salvation comes from God.”

Psalm 62:1

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