Write the Vision

As we begin a new year, we are talking about having a vision. Habakkuk 2:2 says, “Then the Lord answered me and said, “Record the vision And inscribe it on tablets, that the one who reads it may run.” (NASB) The King James Version says, “And the Lord answered me, and said, “Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it.” Writing our vision down is the first step in accomplishing the goals we set before ourselves. I must admit, I’m not good at making goals or writing down visions.

I have dreams just like anyone else but setting goals has always been a hard thing for me. My thinking is, “God’s going to do what He wants to do anyway, my making goals isn’t going to change what He does.” However, I’m beginning to see that by writing down a vision and setting goals is the first step in accomplishing the dreams I have.

For instance, my purpose in beginning this blog is to reach people with Jesus’ love and leading them to know Him by accepting Him as Lord and Savior. That is my vision! My heart’s desire is to see people come to Jesus, asking for His forgiveness, and endeavoring to live for Him so that others will know Him also. One of those tools in accomplishing that vision is my use of Bible Journaling.

I admit that I am not an artist by any stretch of the imagination, but God knows that, and what I do in my Bible Journaling is an expression of what He points out to me from the Scripture, and He’s ok with what I do.

Another tool is expressing in words what He is speaking to me, hence the blog. My thoughts written here are a pouring out of what He wants me to learn or what He wants me to hold on to and to share with others.

I believe that God has called me to this as a ministry. I’m not concerned with how many likes I get or how many followers I have. My primary focus is being obedient to what God has called me to do, and I leave the results up to Him. It’s nice when I get a new follower; I am grateful that I have made an impact on someone through my blog. I keep in mind that Scripture says not to despise small beginnings, (Zechariah 4:10) because God rejoices in seeing the beginning of something sprout and grow, whether it be a ministry He is calling us to, or whether it is a goal we have that is lined up with His will.

Writing the vision down puts it in black and white, it is in front of our eyes, something to look at from time to time as a reminder of the direction we want to go. Writing goals are steps to accomplish that vision. Periodically we need to take account of where we are in achieving the vision and goals we have set; it gives us a measuring stick as to how well we are doing.

Today, I encourage you to sit down and think about what vision you have for this year. What do you want to see come to fruition? Where would you like to be in comparison to where you are now? Pray about the vision you have set, ask God if this is where He is leading you to, and ask for His help in reaching your goal for this year. Write down the vision!

Jesus – Our Peace

It’s the day after Christmas and we can all breathe. The presents have been opened and we’ve had time with family, all is right with the world…or for most it is. However, for some, there is turmoil, pain, loneliness, grief, and a total disconnect from the world. There is no sense of peace. All around are tidings of “Peace on Earth, goodwill toward men” yet for some, there is no peace. Even though today’s Bible Journaling verse isn’t considered a Christmas verse, it echoes what the Christmas story says, that Jesus is our Peace! Ephesians 2:14 says, “For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall.” To put this verse into perspective we must look at it in the context of the verses around it.

The Apostle Paul is talking to the Ephesians about their problems between Jewish and Gentile Believers. The Jews were trying to encumber the Gentiles with Jewish laws like circumcision. Paul is telling them all that once they have accepted Jesus as Savior and Lord, there is no difference, hence in our verse, he mentions the breaking down of the barrier or dividing wall between them. Notice, Paul says that Jesus is our peace! When He died on the cross for our sins the barrier between Jew, Gentile, God, and Man was torn down. Jesus is the avenue we take to reach God regardless of who we are or where we’ve been.

Isaiah prophesied that Jesus would be called the Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6) We can find the peace we seek through Jesus Christ and a relationship with Him. Despite the circumstances, we encounter we can have peace. He is the provider of peace…peace internally and Eternally! The world is in chaos. All around us, there is turmoil…wars, shootings, and discord of every kind surround us. But even though all around us is a mess, we can live in total peace.

When we allow Jesus access to our heart, He brings us His peace! When He lives in us, His very nature is living in us. He IS peace! Even though in our lives we are in circumstances that have us in an upheaval, we can have His peace, with the assurance that He has everything under His control. We may go through something that leaves us wondering “why” or in a time of such despair that there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel. At Christmas time, those who experience this find it so difficult to find that peace. It is at this time of year that we see so many suicides.

The answer to so much pain is so simple! Accept Jesus as Savior, ask Him to forgive you of your sin, acknowledge Him as Lord, Savior, and Master of your life, believe that He was born of a virgin, lived on this earth, teaching and preaching about His Father, God, that He died on a cross for your sins, was buried, and rose again three days later to conquer sin, death, and the grave, and is now seated in Heaven at the right hand of the Father, and will come again to get His children. Thank Him for your salvation and endeavor to live for Him. Repentance is making a 180 degree turn from where you are headed and heading in a new direction. Allow Him to bring you the peace that only He can give you. He can then be YOUR peace!

Jesus – The Source of Our Joy

Today’s Bible Journaling verse isn’t thought of as a “Christmas verse”, but it shows something that I think many may not realize. Our verse today is Acts 13:52, “And the disciples were continually filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.” (NASB) When I read this verse, I immediately thought of a verse we hear at Christmastime when we see a Christmas play or read the Christmas story, “When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.” (Matthew 2:10 (KJV) The Wisemen were rejoicing because they knew they had found Jesus!

In today’s verse, the disciples have been in Antioch preaching. The Apostle Paul is preaching to a crowd and the Jews saw the crowds that were gathering to hear what he had to say. The Jews were very upset, and the Bible says they were filled with jealousy and began to contradict everything Paul and Barnabas said. (Acts 13:45) Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly (Verse 46) and said, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken to you first; since you repudiate it and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. For so the Lord has commanded us, ‘I have placed you as a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation of the end of the earth.’ When the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.” (Acts 13:46-48 NASB) The chapter goes on to say that the Word of the Lord was spread out throughout the whole region. What I love about our verse today is that it says the disciples were continually filled with joy! That’s what happens when Jesus is in our hearts and lives!

He is the source of our joy. Just as the Wisemen rejoiced at finding Jesus, and the disciples were joyful at believing and accepting Jesus into their hearts, we also can be filled with that same joy. Jesus is the source of our joy. Why? Because it is through Him that we receive eternal life. He fills our hearts with joy, despite difficulties in our lives. Even though we are burdened down, we can still have joy in our hearts. We may not be happy when the world seemingly comes against us, but we can have a deep, abiding joy!

Paul and Barnabas were rejected by the Jews, in fact later in the chapter it tells of how the Jews “incited women of prominence and the leading men of the city” to persecute them and drive them out of the city. (Verse 50) The Bible says Paul and Barnabas shook the dust of the city “in protest against them” and went on to another city. (Verse 51) Even then, the disciples were “continually filled with joy.” Though they were persecuted, they were filled with joy. Only God can do that!

When the angels announced Jesus’ birth, they declared, “Do not be afraid; for behold I bring you good news of great joy which shall be for all the people, for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:10-11 NASB) Even the angels proclaimed that there was joy in Jesus, in His birth, in His life, in His death, and in His salvation for the world!

We can have that joy, right now! The Bible tells us that Jesus came for a purpose. He was born to die! God’s plan was formed at the foundation of the world; Jesus would come into the world, live, teach and preach about God’s love, become the sacrifice for our sins by dying on a cruel cross, be buried, then three days later rise again and conquer sin, death, Hell, and the grave. He then ascended to Heaven to live with His Father. He made a promise to us. He is coming back to take His children, those who have accepted Jesus into their hearts, back to Heaven to live and reign with Him. There is great joy in knowing that Jesus loves us that much! He has promised to never leave or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5) and for me, that brings great joy!

Love Came Down at Christmas

Today’s verse is very familiar. Most people have heard it, even those who are not Believers. Our verse today is John 3:16. Almost everyone has memorized this verse, and I think it has become so familiar that we don’t even think about the significance of it. We rattle it off, not even thinking about how wondrous it is. “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (NASB) Most people wouldn’t associate this verse with Christmas, but it ties in more than we may realize.

When I was a teenager, I sang in our Christmas Cantatas at church every Christmas. It was a family tradition. My parents, when he was old enough, my brother, and I. My sister wasn’t old enough to participate, and at the time, she wasn’t interested. I come from a musical family. My parents started their teaching careers as music teachers, my uncle was a band director for elementary and high school, my aunt played many instruments, including the organ at her church. My grandmother played piano for her church. Many times, my parents and I would sing trios for special music at church. When I married my first husband, we would do quartets with my folks. So, music is very important to me, especially Christian music.

One Christmas Cantata we did had a song called, “Love Came Down at Christmas.” It told of how God sent Jesus, His Son, to be born as a baby, to live, and to die on a cross, because of His great love for us. If it wasn’t for the virgin birth of Jesus, there would be no Easter, and without Easter, there would be no need for Christmas. The cross and the manger are tied together.

In my Bible Journaling, I love how the name of Jesus is written in the form of a cross. It’s part of a kit in this series, and I felt it was fitting to include it in the manger scene. God so loved that Jesus came. He came, not as a King with great fanfare, but He came as a baby, someone who entered this world in the most unassuming way. Only a few knew Who He was.

I think sometimes, we leave Him in the manger as a little baby and forget that He grew up to be a man, a man who would die for the world, as a sacrifice for our sins. He lived a sinless life, showed us how to live, taught us about God’s character, and above all, He loved us “with an everlasting love.” (Jeremiah 31:3)

I’m so glad that He didn’t stay that baby in a manger. I’m glad that He lived and walked on this earth, experienced the things we do, knows and understands our thoughts, our feelings, our struggles, and our joys. I’m so grateful for His sacrifice for our sins; I’m grateful for His forgiveness, and I’m grateful for His love. Love Came Down at Christmas!

Christmas Hope

As we continue to look at Christmas, today we look at the hope that Christmas brings to us. Isaiah 9:6 is a familiar passage for us. It has been spoken in countless church Christmas programs by shining little faces acting out the Christmas story. “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given: and the government shall upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” (KJV) Isaiah prophesied the coming of the Messiah some 700 years before it was fulfilled. The Jewish people had hope that God was going to step into their lives and rescue them.

Jews today are still looking for the Messiah. What they don’t realize is, He already has come. Two thousand years ago He came in a way they weren’t expecting, and so they missed it. They are still in hope of seeing the Messiah come, they look for His coming. As Born-Again Believers, we have seen that Hope realized in our lives. Jesus came to earth as a baby born in a stable to common people. He didn’t come as a King. The Jews were looking for a grand entrance with lots of fanfare. Jesus came quietly, in a small town, with no fanfare except for a chorus of angels telling of His birth to lowly shepherds on a country hill looking after their sheep.

He lived a simple life, preached to those who would hear about what His purpose for being there was, showing them how to live, who God was, who HE was, and then fulfilled His purpose by becoming a sacrificial lamb for the sins of the whole world. He came to be the Savior of the world and provide the hope of eternal salvation for everyone. That hope is still available today.

Jesus invites each one of us to tap into that hope by accepting His free gift of salvation. He loves us so much that He wants us to become part of His family. He wants to provide for us, not just physical or financial things, but He wants to provide eternal life, He wants to provide to us eternal blessings.

That is the greatest hope we can ever have! The hope of eternal salvation! The hope of having a Friend who is closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24), the hope of walking with Him daily, the hope of a love greater than we could ever imagine, the hope that our lives will be full of joy, peace, and grace. These things can only be found in a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Life in this world is hard, that’s a fact. However, Jesus can help us in those times when it seems life is smacking us down. He can give us hope that He knows what’s going on, hope that this will not last forever and that He has a plan for our lives, and it’s a good plan (Jeremiah 29:11). When we feel as if we can’t take one more step, He will carry us.

He will provide blessings that will overwhelm us. In those times, He will rejoice with us. The joy of His presence, of experiencing His blessings, of finding the peace that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7) is one of the greatest gifts He gives us. Jesus is God’s gift to us! How we love Him for providing such an amazing gift! That is the Christmas Hope we have.

If you haven’t asked Jesus to be your Savior, ask Him to come into your heart and life, confess your sins, and make a conscious decision to live for Him. You will find it is the best decision you will ever make. You will then have that Hope!

Have You Any Room?

Today I want to continue with the verse we studied yesterday, Luke 2:7, “And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” (NASB) Yesterday we talked about celebrating Jesus’ birth. Today I want to focus on the last part of this verse. As I explained yesterday, Mary and Joseph had to take refuge in a stable because there was no room at the inn for them, even though Mary was about to give birth.

Because of the census being taken, every inn was completely full in Bethlehem. How unsettling that must have been for Mary and Joseph. I can relate! Back in the 1990s, my first husband, Allen, and I went on a “driving vacation.” We only had a week and we decided to head from Montana down to Las Vegas, through Arizona, New Mexico, and back to Montana. Allen wasn’t one for making reservations in advance, much to my dismay. We managed fine until we got to Albuquerque, New Mexico. It was something like 2:00 in the morning, we couldn’t find any motels that had rooms within a 100-mile radius, because, much to our surprise, the annual Hot Air Balloon Festival was taking place and every hotel, motel, and camping spot was taken. We found a motel in a not so good part of town, pulled in, and the counter clerk said they had no rooms available, especially since we had brought our dogs with us. Then, he said, “I have a room that you may be able to take.” He took us to this room, and there on the floor was someone’s suitcase. I said, “This room is already taken.” Then he took us to another room, and it was like the room from Hell! It looked like it hadn’t been cleaned in months. Dirt was everywhere, it had a kitchenette and the refrigerator had spoiled food in it, the bathroom was dirty, and the bed looked like someone had been sleeping in it. On top of that, there were people out in the parking lot that I could swear were doing drug deals. Needless to say, we left our dogs in the car! I told Allen to bring our sleeping bags in and lay them on the bed because there was no way I was getting into that bed between the sheets! The kicker to it all was the name of the motel…Desert Oasis! Wow!

As bad as that was, Mary and Joseph had it worse. They ended up in a stable full of smelly, dirty animals, and that was where Jesus was born. What a way for the Savior of the world to come into the world! No one had any room for Him! It has been that way ever since! When He walked this earth teaching and preaching, He was rejected by His own people. Even the Pharisees and Sadducees, the religious leaders of His day, called Him a blasphemer and plotted to kill Him. What they didn’t realize is that He was God’s Son, come to save the world from sin, to die on a cross willingly as a sacrifice for sins, past, present, and future. He then rose from the grave to be victorious over death and the grave and ascended back into Heaven.

Down through the centuries people have rejected Jesus, not making any room for Him in their hearts. They think that doing good deeds, or “not being as bad as the next guy” will get them into Heaven and save their sins. But the Bible says that we must accept Jesus as our Savior and ask Him to forgive us of our sins, and then allow Him to have complete control over our lives. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.” (NASB) Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (NASB) Romans 6:23 tells us, “But the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord.” Ephesians 2:8-9 tells us that we can not be saved by our works. We are saved by grace, through faith in Jesus Christ. “For by grace ye are saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God. Not of works lest any man should boast.” (KJV) Only through the shed blood of Jesus Christ can we become new creatures, have our sins forgiven, and gain eternal life. Revelation 3:20 says, “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come into him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” When we ask Jesus into our hearts and lives, He forgives us, cleanses us from all our sins, and then He desires to fellowship with us. He wants a relationship with us.

If you have never asked Jesus to be your Savior, this Season of celebrating His birth is a perfect time. Make room for Him in your heart. You will find it is the best decision you will ever make. He is a friend that sticks closer than a brother, and He will walk with you every day.

A Thankful Heart

For the past week or so, I’ve not been posting because I had cataract surgery on my right eye, and I need to let it heal. Today I decided to try Bible Journaling, and I’m finding that I may need to wait a while longer. I will be having the other done in a week, so I may be out of service for a couple more weeks or so. With that said, I need to finish our devotion to how we can be the light, and we will be working on being grateful for this month. I want to try and incorporate both of those thoughts this month somehow.

For today though, we will look at I Thessalonians 5:16-18, “Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” We need to have grateful hearts. There are so many things for which we can give God praise and thanks. Even during times of distress, there are things for which we can be grateful. As I was doing my Bible Journaling page, I listed a few things for which I am thankful that God has given me. I am so grateful for my husband. He came at the right time in my life. He ended a time of darkness in my life. God knew I needed him then, and He blessed me with another wonderful man of God! I have been so blessed to have two husbands who were/are in ministry with a heart after God. The time between them was a period of grief and darkness, but as our verse tells us today, we are to rejoice always…even in the darkness.

I am also thankful for the talent He has given me in music. I am so grateful to be able to be part of the Worship Team at my church. I find it a blessing to express my gratefulness, love, and devotion to Him through my singing and playing. I can use the talent He has given me for His glory.

Most of all I am thankful for His salvation. His grace is above and beyond anything I can even imagine. He loved me before I loved Him! He sought me out and drew me to Himself because He wanted a relationship with me. As I look at my Bible Journaling page, it kind of looks like a bit of a mess, but then I remember, He takes my mess and makes it something beautiful and for that, He gets the glory!

Our verse says we also are to pray unceasingly! Now, that doesn’t mean that we are in constant prayer, unable to do anything but pray. No, we are to be in an attitude of prayer daily. Our thoughts should be in a conversation with our Lord and Master throughout the day. In that way, we keep our relationship with God strong. It helps us to hear His voice, we become familiar to His still, small, voice even when constant chaos and noise is around us. As we listen to His leading and we spend time with Him, as we’ve been discussing, we can then allow His light to shine in and through us, drawing others to Him. As we go about our day doing the things we must do, our attitude should be that of being in contact with Him, seeking His will and asking what would give Him glory and honor.

Our verse today also goes on to say that we are to give thanks in everything! That includes times when nothing is going right. My husband is teaching me to praise God even when we don’t get what we prayed for, or when things are falling apart. He daily says, “Thank you God for this difficulty. I don’t understand why things went this way, but I give you praise for it anyway.” He is an example of giving thanks in everything. I admire him for being the example I need to see. I’m not one to say thank you for hard times, for the most part, and I need to learn how to honestly say thank you at that moment. What I notice about our verse is, it is God’s will for us to be thankful even in times of distress.

Even though this is the time of year that we are more conscious about being grateful, it is not just at Thanksgiving that we are to be thankful, it is for every day of our lives. When we show gratitude, it also allows God’s light to shine out to a dark world that needs to see a clear pathway to salvation and life.