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, 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."
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.
Not a recent picture of our son who celebrates his 34th (!) birthday today. You are an answer to our prayers. A second chance. A faithful servant of the Lord. Thank you for always seeking to be the one the Lord wants you to be. We love you from our hearts and are eternally grateful for you, Joseph.
Happy Birthday and God's continued abundance to you.
Precious God of heaven and earth, how thankful and blessed we are because of your gift to us. May he always serve you with a devoted heart and the wonderful spirit of discernment and prophetic giftings. Thank you is never enough. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
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.
If you’re anything like me, you have an opinion on a lot of things. And you’re not afraid to express it. In the flesh you’ll jump in with unsolicited commentary and in the Spirit you’ll regret some of what you said.
I grew up—or attempted to—during the heyday of the “drugs, sex, rock ‘n’ roll” generation. I resisted it for as long as I could before I wondered why I was still holding out or holding onto any kind of innocence. I believed in God but didn’t know His Son.
My generation saw the ushering in of the “Ms.” women, better known as the decline and fall of real womanhood. Don’t get me wrong here. If you’re a woman doing the same work as a man as well as or better than a man, you deserve to be paid accordingly. If in your family, you have to work outside your home and put in as many or more hours than your husband, work together to manage your household chores. If you feel called to engage a job or service in a predominantly man’s field of endeavor, go fulfill your call.
But through all these trials and decisions, never ever forget who God made you to be . . . “But for Adam, no suitable helper was found.” (Gen. 2:20) Many women cannot accept their God-given roles, as if it’s degrading to be a “suitable helper” to the man God has for them. God saw the need, and he filled it with the perfect complement, the one who could meet the loneliness, the one who could inspire the desire to lead, to be responsible, to love emotionally, physically, and spiritually, the one who could maximize who he was made to be. Only a woman made just for him could fill that incredible order.
The woman was made from a man indicating she would always be a part of him, and he would always be attached to her. He would be responsible for this one who owned a piece of him. It was a perfect combination.
Enter the temptation to “do it my way” under the beguiling influence of “female reasoning and logic” and insert the male inertia of not wanting to take responsibility for direct disobedience, and the fatal flaw of sin entered a perfect world setting off the ticking time bomb of utter depravity and eventual destruction.
How generous of God to allow a very young virgin woman named Mary to bear the child who would redeem this fallen mess of humanity. He could’ve done it multiple ways—far more creatively than I could ever imagine—and eliminated the use of a female in the process. This young female was strong in her faith and absolute in her worship of God Almighty. Read Mary’s declaration after her encounter with the angel Gabriel (Luke 1:46-55). Humble obedience. “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” (Luke 1:38)
Mary would be required to follow her husband to a strange town to have her baby, to a foreign country to protect her son, to return to a new city to start life over again. And she would do it. Because it was her call to do so. She fulfilled her God-given role. Her faith and her obedience allowed her to live the most important role of all women in the Bible. She was allowed to carry and bear the Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Never again. Once for all. But the female gender was redeemed by being obedient, first to God, then to her husband. Was it easy? I highly doubt it. How many of you women could pack in the middle of the night to leave for a foreign country where you wouldn’t know a soul and couldn’t even speak the language because your husband woke up with a start after hearing from an angel. Not many of us would be too willing, perhaps arguing it was bad pizza. Life was not ordinary for this family. Because God was directly and actively involved. Someone had to lead. Someone had to follow. Mary followed.
Ladies, this isn’t my idea. I’m a strong-willed, independent woman, and my husband gives me a lot of freedom. He respects me spiritually and often seeks my thoughts, even my advice. But when it comes time for the heavy-hitting decision making, he knows it’s ultimately his responsibility to make them because one day he will stand before Jesus Christ and give an account for his manhood. We women will do the same for our womanhood. Do you really want to stand before the Lord and testify that you acted like Eve when you should have acted like Mary?
Every home is different. Every household has its own order. This Christmas I would just suggest to you women who profess to honor Christ, to take inventory of your willingness to obey the One who made the rules, set the tone, gave you life, who adores you, and treasures you, and desires to guide you through the wicked world with His steadying, encouraging, loving hand. He knows you best, and He knows what’s best for you. May we all say along with Mary, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.”
Father, it’s been a long and difficult journey for this woman, as you know. But I’m ever more willing with each hour that passes in my life to obey, to seek your face, to be your servant. There is no better place to be. Help me to be the one you want to be. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
As we approach our celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, I would like to encourage men today with this message from the Christmas account.
Men today have multiple challenges of all kinds. For example, their visual instincts are exploited by every medium known to the human race, enticing them into sexually sinful thoughts and/or ways. Books such as Everyman’s Battle break it all down for them in a working and understandable way, but many Christian men won’t read the book(s) which identify the problems of their gender, some because they’re unwilling to face their weaknesses and be required to do something about them, some because they think their reactions are all just part of being a man, and some because they feel hopeless and just can’t take one more jab of criticism from the holier than thou set.
The requirements are stiff for a man in this world. Especially in Christianity. Because Christianity requires a guy to be a man about everything. To step up. To take responsibility for himself, his wife, his family, his place in the body of Christ. It’s a tall order, and it can be daunting.
The Bible tells us in more ways than one, and history bears it out as well, “There is nothing new under the sun.” The only new things are the advanced technological ways to present and exploit the same old problems.
Well, men, if you want to usher in the new year with some fresh resolve, take a look at the earthly father of Jesus Christ, a carpenter by trade, not wealthy, a man of faith, placed in the middle of a difficult dilemma with the young woman he was pledged to marry. (If you’re some wayward wanderer in the blog kingdom, landing upon my title of this entry and certainly not expecting to find anything biblical, of all things, I urge you to complete your reading anyway—you just might learn something.) As most of you know, you can find the account in the following places in the New Testament: Matthew 1:18-25; 2:1-23; Luke 1:26-56; 2:1-51.
Joseph had dreams and visions of angels which both challenged and amplified his faith. In the process of receiving life changing instructions through these supernatural encounters, he became an amazing man who is only discussed in these few places in the Bible. When he anticipated having to divorce his pregnant (not by him) fiancée, he thought of her, not wanting to “expose her to public disgrace”. It was after his practical consideration that the impractical took place: specific instruction of the how and who of this anointed child to come. What did Joseph do? “When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name of Jesus.”
Through the course of time, Joseph was required by the Roman government to leave his home with his very pregnant bride and travel a considerable distance to Bethlehem for a census where this unusual child was born nearly upon arrival there, started a new life in that town, sometime later was told to leave in the night for an immediate escape to Egypt, travel back to Israel and eventually settle in a not so desirable town known as Nazareth where the family started over once again.
Each decision that Joseph made had to be a difficult one: uprooting his family because of dreams and visions. The consummate man of faith with the family who trusted his ability to hear and obey God’s leading. This was the man God hand-picked to be the earthly father of the Lord Jesus Christ. No one has ever held a more difficult role in humanity. So much weighed upon each decision he had to make. Yet God sent messengers, dreams, and visions to guide him from his simple life as a man pledged to be married to the awesome task of being the husband to the woman who carried the Christ or Messiah.
Never again. Once for all. But, men, I urge you to consider the depth of faith of the man Joseph. Are you willing to listen, dream, endure visions to hear from the living God? And then are you willing to obey? Single, married, divorced—are you willing to make a new commitment to the supernatural God who desires to find men who are anxious to upgrade their spiritual lives instead of just their computers or sound systems or football channels? Are you a real man of God who knows there is so much more available to you, and you want it? Regardless of what’s required of you? Are you willing to hear and obey?
Look at Joseph, an ordinary man of faith, selected to be an extraordinary man because of that faith and willingness to obey the God who asked him to do what some would have considered out of the question, not in their house, huh-uh, no way. What kind of man are you?
Father, your love is endless, your desires often plainly expressed, but you also use unpredictable means to communicate at times. You are the one true God. You make ordinary things extraordinary when you enter into them and participate actively. I am so in awe of you. Help me to listen and always obey. I want all that you have for me. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
This is just a short passage from Chapter 5 of a novel I titled The Fixer.
Lamb dragged herself to the car and started it up. She returned indoors to apply her makeup while it warmed up. Instead of rain frost covered the ground. She’d only slept a couple of hours but was determined to go to church. The service today would begin a week of invited speakers, an evangelist, guest musicians, and extended prayer days and times—she figured she couldn’t afford to miss the meetings. She ached for more of the Lord, to be consumed by His presence, to receive anything new He might have to offer her.
I didn’t mean to find myself in this desert, Lord. I guess when things happen with my sisters, I’m reminded of that day at the creek—you know, what it felt like before I knew you. It’s a horrible feeling, God. But you know that. Please, have something special for me at these meetings, Lord. Something that will help me be a better person, a more worthy representative of your love and power. I ask it in the name of your Son Jesus Christ, Amen.
After arriving at church, her fatigue contributed to a desire for some solitude. She entered the side doors to the building and slid down the hallway toward the sanctuary in the midst of familiar faces greeting each other, laughing, sipping coffees, and expounding on the previous week’s events. She smiled a greeting to several people but was able to glide through them without stopping for conversation. Opening the sanctuary doors, she entered the room filled with unfamiliar faces praying earnestly. Some of them knelt at the altar while others paced back and forth along the side aisles. There was no mistaking she’d walked into a room of serious prayer warriors, and the Holy Spirit’s presence rushed over her. She slipped up to the altar on the far right side of the platform and knelt on one knee. The tears charged out of her eyes, and she briefly shuddered at the mess her mascara and eyeliner were sure to leave.
As she wept before the Lord, she felt a hand gently rest on her shoulder and a distinctive male voice she didn’t recognize fervently pray for her. Although she heard him, she couldn’t decipher what he was praying. To her surprise and embarrassment, she wept even harder, the pain surfacing at greater levels. With each surge of tears a thousand aches of old pain and past scars washed away in the emotional flood. The one hand lifted and she felt the addition of both hands on her shoulders. Although she sensed the man pray for her even more intensely, it came in a whisper. As he did so, her tears rescinded. Hope seemed to rise up and wave some kind of banner declaring she would not be defeated by the things of this earth. She didn’t intend to do what she did, but she reached up with one hand and placed it over one of the male hands on her shoulder. To her surprise his thumb affectionately caressed her hand, a touch she didn’t expect but transmitted the Lord’s love to her. She dropped her hand and felt the person behind her slowly remove his. Tempted to turn around, she chose not to do so and finally stood to go find a seat. She had no idea who’d prayed for her. No one had ever prayed for her like he had, and no one had ever accomplished with his prayers what he did.
Father, thank you is never enough, but I won't quit saying it. You've given me every inspiration and I will continue to say, "Apart from you, I can do nothing." Thank you. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
The spunky PI "Ronnie" Ingles has found the love of her life in Texas Deputy Dawson Hughes and their mutual covert boss has given Ronnie, her matron of honor Bertha, and her secret operative bridesmaid Sandra, a week at a luxury inn where a lovely bridal shop owner will fit the ladies for their wedding attire.
Setting up their schedules for a pre-Christmas girls' week of fun in this quaint little Virginia town proves to be more eventful than they hoped for when Bertha discovers the accountant and cousin to the gal who operates the local historical society murdered just outside the inn. The testy town detective views Bertha as a suspect at first and riles Ronnie into her own investigation.
Extenuating circumstances bring Bertha's husband Hoot, Dawson Hughes, and a couple other of the operatives on the team to find out what's really happening in this small town with a variety of suspects. There's a mysterious flash drive, a suspicious innkeeper, and yet another murder to compound the problems of this investigation, not to mention Bertha is gone far too long on her walk.
Nike's trilogy develops interesting plots with a lot of likable characters and those who are definitely not. Her mysteries create suspense, go easy on the genuine romance, read a tiny bit like chick-lit in parts but not enough to drown out serious objectives in frustrating investigative efforts.
Blood Speaks is an entertaining conclusion to the crime-fiction trilogy and gives readers a "happily-ever-after" ending to a group of charming, mostly faith-filled characters. Right now Blood Speaks is free for Amazon Kindles!
Father, please continue to bless Nike and her writing. Encourage her as only you can do and give her many more stories to tell. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
Jesus is the reason for the season. That He would come to experience manhood, to live humanity while being God, is unbelievable but grandiose and supernatural. He is real. He is Love. And celebrating His birth is the ultimate exercise in humility and joy.
Buying gifts. I can't tell you how much fun I have finding just the right presents. Nothing is more fun than giving gifts.
Christmas lights. I don't care how few or how many, I love seeing them.
Christmas trees, the colors red and green, and decorations that honor the true meaning of Christmas.
Christmas carols - the real ones with meaningful recitations of our Savior's birth. One of my top more contemporary favorites:
Jesus, there are no words to thank you enough. For coming to earth, for saving the world if they choose to acknowledge you, for taking our sins upon your sinless self to pay the penalty of death for each one of us. I cannot imagine the pain you endured for me. I'm desperate for you and eternally grateful. I love you, Lord. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
Suffice it to say I've become a summer person. Love the sunshine and warmth. The color of skin from the fresh outdoors. The fall is lovely, melancholy, and of all the seasonal clothing, autumn colors are my favorites to wear - besides my Seahawks' attire.
I'm learning the winds in our new residence. Since we have no shortage of the stronger gusts at times, I've discovered the east wind is the most severe and threatening. Not fond of the east wind. Neither is our dog.
Our view is a 360 degree setting of God's beauty in His creation. Rural, a robust view of Mt. Rainier dressed in its neon winter white, green pastures, the foothills and Evergreens dusted with snow, that white speckling encroaching on the lower elevations.
Officially we're easing into winter but it's already here in spirit. The temps have dropped in our area into the 20s. The wind chill is a definite factor this evening as the flags whip around their pole and extend their banners straight out, flapping their protests.
I do appreciate each season, the variance, the clarity, the symbolic messages in each one. There is a purpose . . .
Father, thank you for the incredible beauty, your overwhelming generosity, and your endless love. Apart from you, I can do nothing. Thank you. So much. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
In the vein of the late Vince Flynn and now Kyle Mills, Brad Thor has his own super-hero in the former military sense: Scot Harvath. True thrillers with complex plots, if you like Vince Flynn, you'll like Brad Thor. For me, no one is equal to Mitch Rapp, but Scot Harvath is definitely no slouch. Above is the cover of Thor's latest novel Foreign Agent, but if you want a complete list of his novels, go here. (Oddly enough, Foreign Agentcontains a little more bad language and sexual activity than is normally found in Thor's books.) These novels bring the action and qualify as genuine thrillers in the espionage/political/counter-terrorism venue.
Lord, please stay close to Brad Thor and remind him of your love for him. Keep him safe. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
Once when Jesus was praying in private and his disciples were with him, he asked them, "Who do the crowds say I am?"
They replied, "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life."
"But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?"
"Peter answered, "The Christ of God."
Jesus strictly warned them not to tell this to anyone. And he said, "The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life."
Then he said to them all: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God."