Psalm 119:103 KJVHow sweet are Thy words unto my taste! Yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!
Did you know that tomorrow is Eat-Ice Cream-for-Breakfast Day? I did a brief, informal survey among the people I talked with since learning about this, and much to my surprise, I discovered that people have mixed reactions to this news. Some think that eating this tasty delight at the start of the day will be glorious and the height of luxury. I'm one of them! Others cringe at the thought. It's really a matter of preference and what your tastes desire.
Whatever your reaction, there's an even sweeter treat with which you can start your day'-the Word of God! Psalm 119 is the longest chapter in the Bible, and all 176 verses focus on the beauty, strength, and delight of God's Word and it's power to bring and sustain life.
Sleepiness, busyness, children or other distractions, can occasionally keep you from enjoying that delight from time to time. It happens. But if there's no desire to enjoy God's Word each day, then check your appetite to see what other things are more appealing.
Charles Haddon Spurgeon, 19th Century British preacher, said, 'It should be our rule never to see the face of men before first seeing the face of God . . . The morning watch anchors the soul so that it will not very readily drift from God during the day . . . He who rushes from his bed to his business without first spending time with God is as foolish as though he had not washed or dressed, and as unwise as one dashing to battle without arms and armor.'
So, if you're so inclined, eat some ice cream tomorrow for breakfast, but don't forget to take the time to enjoy the sweetness of God's Word as well!
PRAYER: Gracious God, Your Word brings joy to my soul as it enlightens my path. How sweet it is!
WORDS TO PONDER: 'More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine god: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward.' -King David, Psalm 19:9-10 KJV
John 3:16For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
The words were familiar as I read them from the pages of my Bible. I learned them as a child and quoted them often, but the magnitude and wonder of those simple words nearly overwhelmed me as I read them again.
How much love does it take for someone to allow his/her child, the only child, to die in order to help someone else in need? The answer is beyond calculation, but that's exactly what God did for us. He sent His only Son, the sinless, perfect Lord Jesus, from Heaven to earth to become the complete payment for the debt of our sin so we could be saved from eternal death.
Read those words from different versions of the Bible and let the beauty and wonder sink in:
New King James Version (NKJV) For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
J.B. Philllips New Testament (PHILLIPS)For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that every one who believes in him shall not be lost, but should have eternal life.
Amplified Bible (AMP)For God so [greatly] loved and dearly prized the world, that He[even] gave His [One and] [a]only begotten Son, so that whoever believes and trusts in Him [as Savior] shall not perish, but have eternal life. Footnotes: John 3:16 Jesus, God's only Son, the One who is truly unique, the only one of His kind.
English Standard Version (ESV)For God so loved the world,[a] that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. Footnotes: John 3:16 Or For this is how God loved the world
Max Lucado calls the reference to that verse, 3:16, 'the numbers of hope'. And he's right. In those few words we find the greatest example of genuine love the world has ever known. It doesn't matter which version you read, the message is the same. The depth of God's love is too much, far too much, for our hearts and minds to comprehend!
PRAYER: Oh, Lord, no sacrifice on our part could ever compare to the greatness of the gift You gave us in sending Your only Son, Jesus Christ, to be our Savior, our Friend, and our Guide through life. Your love for us is amazing! It's more than we can think or comprehend.
WORDS TO PONDER: 'The heart of the human problem is the heart of the human. And God's treatment is prescribed in John 3:16. He loves. He gave. We believe. We live.' -Max Lucado, 3:16 The Numbers of Hope
Psalm 137:1-4 NKJV By the rivers of Babylon, There we sat down, yea, we wept When we remembered Zion.
We hung up our harps Upon the willows in the midst of it.
For there those who carried us away captive required of us a song, And those who plundered us required of us mirth, Saying, 'Sing us one of the songs of Zion!'
How shall we sing the LORD's song In a foreign land?
Psalm 137 is a sad song! Israel had been taken captive by the Babylonians, and God's people had lost their joy. They mourned the loss of their home country and its glorious capital, the temple of the Lord, and the days of living in His favor and blessing. But it was their own bad choices and deliberate rebellion against God, His ways, and His will that put them in that place of sadness, sorrow, and suffering! (Isaiah 42:24-25)
As they sat in their hopelessness and misery, the prophet Isaiah stood among them as a world class cheerleader, and he delivered a rousing and hope-filled message reminding them that God was still able and willing to work on their behalf.
'Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the LORD, The Creator of the ends of the earth, Neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the weak, And to those who have not might He increases strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, And the young men shall utterly fall, But those who wait on the LORD Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.' (Isaiah 40:27-31 NKJV)
Isaiah's message was long and it called for Israel to turn from their idols, to repent of their sin, and to do good and not evil. With his words, he gave them the key to discovering a new song-'Wait on the LORD.' The prophet encouraged them to look to God for deliverance, and to allow Him to give them a new song to sing. (Isaiah 42:10)
Bad choices, yours or those of others, can rob you of your joy and song, but like the people of Israel, you are not left hopeless! God offers restoration and renewed joy IF you seek Him, His Word, His ways, and His will.
If you've lost your joy and find yourself in a place of sadness without a song to sing, look to the LORD. You will find comfort and blessing as you rest in His love, and let Him renew your strength and restore your song.
PRAYER: Gracious, Father, how we praise and thank You for the promise of hope we find in You. Thank You for a new song.
WORDS TO PONDER: 'Wait on the Lord. He is waiting for you to wait.' -Jill Briscoe, Evergrowing, Evergreen
Psalm 139:23-24Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties; And see if there is any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting.
The house on the corner of our street is beautiful! New paint, new vinyl siding, new railings, new windows, and even a new roof. It was a very long and expensive project, but finally it is finished'-or is it?
Along the side of the home, way up high, there are unfinished edges the painters missed that the siding doesn't completely cover. It's a reminder of what the house was before the clean-up work began. Those unfinished edges are telling and disturbing.
How much our lives are like that old house! We, too, can have unfinished edges'-anger, bitterness, fear, gossip-those reminders of our old nature that get in the way of our spiritual growth. We may not even be aware of them, but other people probably see them, and that can hinder our testimony and witness for Christ.
While our adoption into God's family is completed the moment that we recognize our sinfulness and in faith ask Christ to be our Savior, becoming more like Him is not an instantaneous change. It's a process. At the moment of salvation, His Spirit comes to dwell in us, and His work of transforming us from sinful creatures into the likeness of Christ begins.
Day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute the Holy Spirit does His amazing work in us as we let go of our own will and ways and surrender to His finishing touches in our lives.
Let's ask Him today to show us the unfinished edges that need to be taken care of. Then step back and let Him do His transforming work in us so that the beauty of Christ may be seen by the world around us.
PRAYER: Oh Lord, search my heart and see what there is in me that needs changing. Smooth out the rough edges, get rid of unsightly attitudes and actions, and make me more like You.
JOHN 5:1-9 (NKJV)After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew, Bethesda, having five porches. In these lay a great multitude of sick people, blind, lame, paralyzed, waiting for the moving of the water. For an angel went down at a certain time into the pool and stirred up the water; then whoever stepped in first, after the stirring of the water, was made well of whatever disease he had. Now a certain man was there who had an infirmity thirty-eight years.
When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he already had been in that condition a long time, He said to him, 'Do you want to be made well?'
The sick man answered Him, 'Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; but while I am coming, another steps down before me.'
Jesus said to him, 'Rise, take up your bed and walk.' And immediately the man was made well, took up his bed, and walked. And that day was the Sabbath.
In John 5:1-9 we read the exciting story of the lame man who sat by the Pool of Bethesda hoping to be healed by being the first to enter the pool after the angel stirred the waters. When Jesus arrived on the scene He asked the lame man a simple but profound question, 'Do you want to get well?'
Why would Christ ask such an obvious question? He could see the man had been in that condition for many years. Thirty eight to be exact. Did the man really want to find healing or was he just there so he could say he was trying? Knowing that being whole would change every area of his life, could it be that he was comfortable staying the way he was simply because it was all he had known?
Each of us has certain areas of our life that need God's healing touch. These are the things that hinder our spiritual growth and keep us from living in the freedom Christ longs to give us. The question is, do we really want to be well or do we want to hold on to the old habits or attitudes that cripple us? Is it possible that the security of functioning in old and familiar ways keeps us hanging on to sinful and unproductive behaviors and attitudes? In order to get well, you and I must answer the question, 'Do you want to get well?'
The lame man in the story told Jesus that He wanted to take action but he realized that he was helpless on his own. He also knew no one was there who could do the work of getting him to the place of healing. In His mercy Christ did what the man could not do for himself. Jesus said, 'Rise, take up your bed and walk.' Immediately the man was healed.
God probably won't choose to heal you immediately, but be assured that if you depend on Him to help you do what you can't do for yourself, the victory can be yours! You can find freedom from things that now hold you in bondage. You can be whole.
Heavenly Father, help me to break free from habits and attitudes that hold me back from finding complete wholeness and wellness in You. Let me throw off the doubts, fears, complacency, complaining, and compromise that prevent me from walking in the freedom of Your Spirit.
EPHESIANS 5:18-20 (KJV) Be filled with the Spirit: speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ . . .
Whether written as prayers and petitions, praise and thanksgiving, or promises of commitment, the hymns of our Christian faith tell the story of God's faithfulness and of His great love. Some hymns were penned as a response to adversity and sorrow. Others burst forth as expressions of exuberant joy, yet all are timeless. Although they have passed from generation to generation, their ability to bless and comfort has never diminished because they are based on the truths of the Word of God'-and God's truth never changes!
In your dark and difficult times, recalling the words to these precious songs can help support and sustain you. They can bring comfort in sorrow, part clouds of depression, and calm your anxieties. While they cannot change your situation, they often can help change your perspective and bring hope in times of despair.
Did you know that there's a special section on our website where you can read the words of many of your favorite hymns? Take a few minutes to check it out sometime. You'll be blessed as these great words warm your heart and lift your soul heavenward.
Beloved Lord, singing of Your greatness keeps me focused on You and keeps my mind from wandering to worry, doubt, and fear. Thank You for the beauty of music, and for the meaningful teaching that we have in our great hymns.
Deuteronomy 8:2And you shall remember that the LORD your God led you all the way.
In our first devotional of 2017, I put forth a challenge to remember and rely on the promises of God as you moved forward in the new year. Let's look again at some of the things God promises us:
"The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD, and He delights in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; for the LORD upholds him with His hand."-Psalm 37:23-24
"Fear not, for I am with you . . ."-Isaiah 41:10
"Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths."-Proverbs 3:5-6
"Even to your old age, I am He, and even to gray hairs I will carry you! I have made, and I will bear; even I will carry, and will deliver you."-Isaiah 46:4
"The LORD, He is the one who goes before you. He will be with you. He will not leave you, nor forsake you."-Deuteronomy 31:8
The days, weeks, and months of 2017 rolled by so quickly! Now here we are already at the end of the year and it's time to reflect on how God's promises have ministered to you throughout the last 52 weeks.
Take some time to prayerfully recall the events of this year and how God used these and/or other promises from His Word to encourage, steady, and anchor you through the difficult times.
If you have one, re-read your journal and reflect on the blessings that came your way. Praise and thank God for His goodness. And as you look forward to another new year, ask Him for a special promise to guide through the coming days as well. You'll be glad you did!
PRAYER: Heavenly Father, Your Word is a treasure beyond compare! Thank You for the way Your promises have led, encouraged, and helped me during this past year. Without You, Your presence, Your promises, and Your provisions, I wouldn't want to face another day.
LUKE 2:13-14 (KJV) And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
THE CAROL OF THE ANGELS
Long ago in old Judea Angels shining with God's light, Sang the song of hope and gladness, 'Christ the Lord is born this night.'
Faithful shepherds heard the carol, Then with haste they found the King, And with voices full of wonder Did the faithful shepherds sing.
Praising God and giving glory, Shepherds passed the carol on. Down through countless generations Has the wondrous message carol come.
No more angels in the night sky, No more shepherds do I see; But that blessed song of angels Has been passed along to me.
Help me, Lord, with voice unceasing, Sing the song as it should be, Telling of the wondrous Savior; Sing Your song of love through me.
By Ann Shorb
The poem above is one that I wrote in 1993. Just a few years ago, my brother-in-law put it to music. If you would like to download a printed copy of this song, go to www.ccesonline.com/downloads/carol.pdf
Please Tell a Friend
Would you take just a moment to prayerfully consider sending this to two friends who might be blessed by what we've shared today?
PSALM 98:4 (KJV)Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth.
Do you have a favorite Christmas song? I do! Every time I hear 'Joy to the World' my heart is overwhelmed with gladness for the coming of our Savior. I'm not quite sure when I fell in love with this delightful hymn, but every time I hear it the wonder of Christmas comes alive for me.
This song was published in 1791 by Sir Isaac Watts as part of his exceptional hymnal introducing the first English hymns. Until that time, the music sung in worship consisted of the psalms. Watts used his heart and his pen to change the tone of worship bring the scriptures to life for the believer in Christ.
'Joy to the World' is his interpretation of Psalm 98:4 Take a minute to read carefully through the words of this ancient song, and let the words sink in.
Joy To The World!
Joy to the world! the Lord is come: Let earth receive her King; Let every heart prepare Him room, And heaven and nature sing, And heaven and nature sing, And heaven, and heaven and nature sing.
Joy to the world! the Savior reigns: Let men their songs employ; While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains Repeat the sounding joy, Repeat the sounding joy, Repeat, repeat the sounding joy.
No more let sins and sorrows grow, Nor thorns infest the ground; He comes to make His blessings flow Far as the curse is found, Far as the curse is found, Far as, far as the curse is found.
He rules the world with truth and grace, And makes the nations prove The glories of His righteousness, And wonders of His love, And wonders of His love, And wonders, wonders of His love.
Although written over 200 years ago, the truth of this message remains the same. There is overwhelming joy in knowing that the Lord of the Earth, the King, the Savior has come! Under His rule, we are no longer bound under the curse of sin, but rather dwell in the glories of His righteousness and the wonders of His love. May you see those wonders and enjoy His glory as you celebrate this Christmas season.
Heavenly Father, my heart rejoices at the wonder of Your love and the way Your beauty has touched all of creation.
By Ann Shorb Copyright Ann Shorb, 2017
Scripture taken from the King James Version of The Holy Bible.
GALATIANS 4:4 (NKJV)But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.
This month our devotionals focus on the music of Christmas. My mind was still thinking about that last Friday morning after I finished writing the devotional and set out to do my errands. At lunch time, I stopped to get a bite to eat at a local fast food restaurant. The place was packed, but I found a seat near a table with three young mothers who were obviously enjoying their time together. Their children were all at the next table, giggling and playing while they ate. As I settled into my seat, I noticed that above all the noise and chatter filling the air I could hear a young voice bellowing, 'Ring the bells for Jesus is born! Ring the bells for Jesus is born!'
I looked at the table full of children, and there was a little girl about three years old sitting sideways on her chair, singing her heart out. 'Ring the bells for Jesus is born!' Sadly, she only knew one line of the song, but she sang that line over and over and over again. The fact that no one seemed to be listening didn't bother her. The song came from her heart and it seemed to give her great joy to share her message.
While she sang, the other children played, some nibbled on food, mothers chatted quietly, workers worked, and people passed. How very typical of the world in which we live. The most glorious message of love and mercy was bellowed from the joyful heart of a three year old, but no one seemed to notice-yet I heard her song and my heart was touched, and I know that if I heard it, some others did, too.
I guess the world hasn't changed much in 2,000 years because on that glorious night when Christ was born, the world slept. And in the days that followed, children played, some nibbled on food, mothers chatted quietly, workers worked, and people passed. No one really seemed to notice that the King of Kings and Lord of Lords had arrived on earth. Yet surely there were some who heard and whose hearts were touched and their lives were changed.
I walked to my car having learned a lesson from that little child. It isn't up to me to get people to notice me or to change their hearts; my job is just to give the words of hope and life. Those who hear and believe will be blessed. I'm only called to be faithful and keep repeating my one-line song. God will take care of the rest. Some may never realize I'm singing; some may choose not to listen, but those who hear and believe will be blessed and will know His love and mercy. My only job is to keep singing my one-line song'-the Savior has come.
Heavenly Father, my heart rejoices at the wonder of Your love and the way Your beauty has touched all of creation.