In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar - when Pontius Pilate - was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene - during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the desert. He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. As is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the product:
"A voice of one calling in desert, 'Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him. Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth. And all mankind will see God's salvation.'"
Extremely well done. This is the tear-jerking scene for us romantics that allowed Ziva David to stay in her homeland (Israel) and for Cote de Pablo to leave NCIS. Will Special Agent Tony DiNozzo's departure involve the unconfessed love of his life? Hopefully.
Father, emotion is a gift. Thank you for it. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
Father, thank you for the talent and gifts you disperse. My prayer is that each one who has made the best and most of theirs will realize who gave it to them. Bless Michael as he continues in the career you gave him. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
This very modern kitchen has an older, kind of classic feel to it, especially with the glimpse of the adjoining hallway, doors, and the wainscoting/kitchen wall. I don't like the ceiling, but everything else works including the view.
Lord, thank you for the ability to capture the old with the new, to use what's valuable from all different times. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
Karin Kaufmann adds a fourth cozy mystery with an edge to her collection of The Anna Denning Mystery Series. As always, The Club presents a multi-character murder mystery for Anna Denning as she joins the police force as a consultant. It does seem as though murder tends to follow her around and with the help of her close friend Liz, who operates a news website which outshines and often scoops the local Elk Park newspaper, Anna is tasked with finding the family of a murder victim who's missing a finger. A genealogist by trade, Anna simultaneously takes on an extra job from a woman (Melinda) trying to find her family heritage after being summoned by the father who abandoned her family and who she refers to as "the monster".
Anna, Liz, and Melinda investigate the "January Club" by attending one of their yearly open house meetings because of a connection they found to Melinda's father. They learn "the club" is basically composed of a few people who practice various occult practices. Anna discovers the case she's working on for the police ties into this weird club.
Karin's writing is perfect for this genre. We're familiar with Anna Denning after three previous books, and Karin keeps Anna's voice, personality, and actions steady for what we expect of her character. Between Anna and Liz, theories run rampant as they try to figure out the real purpose of the January Club and the odd relationships formed by its members.
If you like cozy mysteries with an edge, The Club by Karin Kauffman is definitely worth your time. Entertaining, informational, clever, and mysterious with a touch of the supernatural, The Club's complex plot and the duo of Anna and Liz working together proves to be enjoyable reading.
Father, thank you for watching over Karin. Please continue to meet her needs and provide her with the stories you design just for her to tell. Bless her, Lord, as only you can do. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
Every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover. When he was twelve years old, they went up to the Feast, according to the custom. After the Feast was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, "Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you."
"Why were you searching for me?" he asked. "Didn't you know I had to be in my Father's house?" But they did not understand what he was saying to them.
Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.
2015 is exiting. Some will celebrate, some will mourn, some will address it as just another day. Some will sing this old tune. Others will drink liquid spirits into 2016. As the saying goes, "Time waits for no man."
Whatever 2016 brings you, there is one thing that will never change. The God of the universe sent His Son Jesus Christ to save us. All of us. Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). We can take Him or leave Him to our benefit or peril.
The world rocks with war, terrorism, pestilence, poverty, sickness, and spiritual and emotional void. Jesus doesn't promise relief from the effects of mankind's sins. He offers companionship through it all. He offers rescue from the void. He offers heaven when life is all done. And he offers forgiveness to those who ask for it.
What you choose for your life in 2016 is in your heart. You determine your eternal direction. One way, one truth. Not mine: I'm a sinner just like you, and I didn't create the wonder or dilemma of free will, right and wrong, sin and saint. Those belong solely and soul-ly to the God of the universe. And you and I get to choose what we believe, embrace, or live out.
Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."John 14:6 (NIV)
See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ. Colossians 2:8 (NIV)
Your choices are the same for 2016 as they were for any other year. Choose wisely. Eternity awaits.
Thank you, Lord God, for rescuing me. As always, I'm desperate for you. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
Wow. Dual ranges. Dual ovens - one convection. Two sinks. Love the tile floor and granite (?) countertops for the island and counters. Wish the island didn't have that "dividing" feature. Looks like the fridge and microwave are in the other part of this "divided" kitchen with an easy chair? And I need backs to my stools - not much leg clearance for these. Like the wood tone/stain and tile.
Lord, you provide ideas for all kinds of designs. Amazing creativity and beauty. Thank you. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
Okay. It's Monday. And here's another kitchen. This one would work in a house, but it looks to be an urban apartment. Love the brick, wood beams, and floor. Large. Open. Must be one big pricey apartment.
Thank you, Lord, for sharing your beauty on earth. May we always appreciate it. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
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, saying:
"Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace.
For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people.
a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel."
The child's father and mother marveled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed and said to Mary, his mother: "This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too."
We realized the seriousness of our endeavor right from the startling beginning. When you study the heavens, it’s a shocking discovery to find something new and so specific, something so amazingly bright set in place by some outrageous force. It beckoned to us, and after much discussion we knew we must pursue the phenomenon because not only our minds were in agreement but our hearts pulsed in our chests and stirred us like none of us had ever experienced. This star marked something, and we became determined to follow its marker.
Packing our satchels and gathering our wealth, somehow knowing there would be a requirement at the end of this journey, we loaded our best beasts with our survival gear and treasures and bid our associates farewell. Each one wished us good traveling and remained anxious to learn of this special light in the sky never before noted in the history of the stars. We weren’t entirely sure we could find our destiny with this star, but we knew we were all compelled to follow it.
The journey wore on, long and sometimes difficult. We faced some weather storms and had to rest more than we’d hoped. One thing was sure throughout our travels: the star never once hid itself in the clouds or diminished in its opaque brightness.
At night we wondered aloud to each other why it could’ve appeared at this time, so stark, so evident, so impossible to ignore. So we studied the publications we had, the prophecies of old, and we realized together that there was to be born a king of the Jews, and it was then that we knew this special birth must have a marker because of the unique description of this new king’s life. Something sacrificial would be required of him, something beyond the scope of mankind and the usual service of kings. We dared to assume this child was set apart for things too grand for us to fully comprehend. Perhaps those heavens we studied held a greater message than our simple hearts could compute, and at night when we discussed our journey and the gifts we felt we must bring as an offering, we’d often retreat to silence as we contemplated the magnitude of our destination in this moment in time. We sensed eternity placing its request upon our hearts, and at times we quaked in what could only be called a holy fear.
Since we were all our own personalities, some of us light-hearted and generally jovial, others of us severely focused and serious, we began to notice we had a joining of our souls on this journey and our usual petty grievances with one another which every so often occurred while we argued over the heavenly bodies no longer persisted. It was like we were joined in purpose, resolution, and a kind of faith we’d never known together. This star had presented an opportunity for us to set aside our professional differences, our dislike of certain characteristics in each of us, including ourselves, and I cannot recall one single incident of discord along the occasionally perilous journey.
We approached the great city of Jerusalem and the star shone even brighter—as impossible as that seemed, but we were all in agreement about that fact. Knowing we were in foreign lands, we asked some local teachers of their law about the prophecy to determine the exact location of this tiny king because the star seemed to shine over the entire area.
Shortly after seeking our information we were summoned by the Roman King Herod who inquired about the exact time the star had appeared. He made a strange request after telling us to go to Bethlehem, asking us to report back to him so he could go and worship the child.
When we packed up and headed out for Bethlehem, the star, in what could only be referred to as a miraculous compass, once again appeared more specifically and led us right to the exact home of the young child. We thrilled with anticipation for we knew the purpose of our journey was nearing its climax. The mother Mary’s eyes widened at our appearing and the extravagance of our gifts, but she seemed to understand the magnitude of our visit and her gracious welcoming allowed us to experience the marvel of the whole journey and culmination of supernatural events here in this small and common dwelling. The child's father, a gracious and humble man, seemed stricken with our obedience to make this journey but well able to understand it. Our surprise at the utter holiness of our visit overwhelmed us later that night.
We awoke having all experienced the same intense dream filled with warning not to return to King Herod’s court, so we set off for our distant home taking a different route, never to be the same again.
Following a star placed in the heavens by a holy hand who holds eternity gave us hope we hadn’t previously known. This little king radiated a glory we couldn’t have sensed without him, and we held him in our hearts as we traveled back to our land. We would never leave him behind even though we knew we would never see him again until that One who made the star we followed took us to be with Him.
In Book Three of the prequels to the Raleigh Harmon Mystery Series (which features the adult FBI Special Agent Raleigh Harmon) we see Raleigh at almost 16 years old headed out with her weird Aunt Charlotte in her aunt's ancient Volvo to participate in a billionaire's science contest with four other contestants on Ocracoke Island. And although these are labeled YA, they're clearly up to the reading standards of adults who love the writing and stories of Sibella Giorello.
The last one to arrive at the contest gathering due to the breakdown of the old Volvo and rescue from the ferry by the billionaire himself (Bill Brogan), Raleigh's vulnerability and insecurity amp up, her belief that her best friend Drew should be the one present here, but since Drew's experience depicted in Stone and Spark, the first prequel, Drew has become even more of a genius recluse.
To disrupt the contest one of the female contestants (Cady) is found unconscious buried in the sand. She's taken to the hospital. Brogan decides the remaining four must work as two teams, two guys and two gals, to determine the scientific answer to his proposed question about the island dune grasses offering to double the prize to $100K.
Nothing fires up Raleigh's inquisitive nature like an unsolved puzzle involving geology, her specialty. So many questions arise about how and why the girl Cady came to be buried in the sand that her discovery about the sand used in the burial takes her away from answering the question about the dune grasses. Her partner Lanette, another quirky genius, seems to be onto an answer concerning the dune grasses, but Raleigh pursues her questions about the two kinds of sand which in no way should be mixed together according to an old flame of her brilliant, paralyzed science teacher back home.
Complicating all of it is one of the other contestants' blue eyes and easy drawl. "Tex" (aka Marcus) is smooth and charming but also kind and troubled, and Raleigh is drawn to him in spite of herself, even after seeing him where he doesn't figure to be.
Sibella's writing is compelling, her characterizations superb, the dialogue fully engaging, and the story fascinating. If you have no interest in geology and can't muster any, this might not be the novel for you because there is plenty of technical information about minerals. I found it informative and necessary to the story, but some might not think so.
Stone and Sand offers the usual Giorello intrigue mixed with insightful revelations from a young Raleigh who's growing up with a mentally ill mother, an agoraphobic OCD best friend, a new-age aunt, and the emotional experience of meeting a young man who hides his sorrows in his blue, blue eyes. There are profound moments in this story of young brilliance, conniving greed, supernatural poppycock, and serious science. The end brought real tears.
Raleigh's faith stays inherent in her character but is understated throughout the story.
Highly recommend this series from prequels and beyond.
Father, my prayer is that you would continue to give Sibella many stories just for her to write, that her gifted writing would be rewarded. I pray you would minister to her for what she needs, keep her safe from all harm, and may everything she does to honor you be richly blessed. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register.
So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in strips of cloth and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in strips of cloth and lying in a manger."
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about."
So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
Of course as Christians if we hear the word “savior”, we think of our Lord who is the Savior. We are pleased to celebrate His birth this time of the year and give Him the honor He deserves year round.
I told you how much I admired Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus Christ, and the young mother Mary who demonstrated both her love for and obedience to God instantaneously after being visited by the angel Gabriel. The profound honor placed upon this couple was full of personal sacrifices and required enormous faith. As humans, I’m sure they experienced their share of tearful confessions to one another during the trials of relocating and raising the son of God. And then Mary lived to watch the One who had been miraculously conceived in her die a gruesome and sorrowful death, only to see Him rise again to deliver her and the entire human race from punishment if they so choose to believe in His sacrificial act of redemption.
So what about those who are called to be single, without a spouse, without a mate or helpmate? According to Paul, it is the better choice to remain singular. “An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs—how he can please the Lord.” (1 Cor. 7:32) "An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit.” (1 Cor. 7:34) “Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: it is good for them to stay unmarried, as I am.” (1Cor. 7:8)
Those of us who are married know there are multiple sacrifices made to stay married, to work out the problems of sinful humans cohabitating. Our selfishness strives against benevolence. Our demands strain to be concealed or rise to be satisfied. We have all kinds of issues to face and overcome. Some do, and sadly some don’t. Marriage is hard work. Worth every effort in almost all cases, but very hard work to keep it functioning at a godly and inspiring level of operation.
So this is a tribute to those who have been called to the sometimes lonely office of being single. To find that you have the unique place of being devoted to the Lord’s business without the distractions of trying to keep another person satisfied in a living arrangement does not mean that the requirements of that life are any less difficult or potentially stressful when neglected but rather allow for a possible greater extension of service in the kingdom. There is no greater duty, call, privilege, or responsibility than being about His business. Every position in the kingdom is valuable, but it is also part of a grand design. No one should feel less or more because he/she is single or married. We all have our things to do.
The single person must forge his way without the help or interference of another human partner. Jesus and the Holy Spirit are the partners in making the way for decisions to accommodate the business of God. Who better and more helpful? What better way to become more dependent on God instead of on another human being?
This supernatural kingdom has a place for all of us. God dictates the ways and supplies the means to enter into His service. No more noble duty for the people of earth than to follow Him. Some will volunteer and serve faithfully. Others will begin their service and then be drawn away. Some will snub the Savior of the world and carry on with His enemy’s business. And still others will be pursued by the Spirit of God and give up and give in to His overtures to embrace the Savior.
Christmas always causes me to reflect on all aspects of humanity. As some work tirelessly within the holy kingdom without recognition while others give their lives for the King of Kings while succumbing to torture, each person given life on earth has a worthwhile place in the kingdom of God if he so chooses. No one need be excluded. There is a plan for every individual, yet some will never come to believe it’s possible for them.
Here’s to all my brothers and sisters who have looked upon the Savior and said: I want you, I need you. Take over for me, Jesus. Thank you for coming to live and to die for me.
Heavenly Father, we honor you. Your high ways are beyond our abilities to comprehend, but we accept them with our finite understanding. We ask to receive your revelation for more of you. As always, we are desperate for you. Increase our insights and discernment during these hard times. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.