Let There Be Joy! - Day 24

The Gift of Joy!

Christmas has given to all of mankind the possibility of experiencing heaven’s joy while living on earth.  When Jesus came to earth - He paved the way for joy straight into your heart!

One of the most important aspects of Christmas for a believer is to respond to the joy of His presence.  This is especially important if you are experiencing a circumstantial challenge or disappointment.  Don’t expect the festivities to relieve the pain - only His presence has the power to do that for you!

Nearly 800 years before the birth of Jesus, the Prophet Isaiah described exactly what the Messiah would do when He came:

"Surely our griefs He Himself bore and our sorrows He carried.”  (Isaiah 53:4)

Not only did Jesus come to take your sins to the cross, but He also came to relieve you of everything in life that has caused you to endure sorrow and to spend years of your life in deep grief.  Jesus took those emotions, sorrow and grief, to the cross and died for them so that you could live in joy!  God the Father knew that there would be things this side of heaven that would cause deep pain and deep grief in the hearts of His children.  God, in His great mercy and loving kindness was unwilling to allow you to bear the brunt of devastating emotions and disappointment.  And so, as the greatest Christmas gift of all time, He said, “Son, when You go to earth, not only will You take their sins to the cross, but You will also carry their sorrows and grief to the cross.”

Christ took our sins to the cross so that we would no longer have to carry them or be in bondage to them.  Christ took our sins so that our futures would not be determined by the sin in our lives.  He took your grief and your sorrow for the same purpose.  Jesus carried your emotional pain to the cross of Calvary so that you would no longer have to carry that pain.  He took your mourning from you so that you would no longer be held captive by it.  He took your deepest emotional pain from you so that it no longer had the power to determine your future.

When Jesus came, the calendar page of history was turned and joy, in its fullest, was delivered to earth.  Joy was given to you.  When Jesus came from heaven’s glory, He came to declare to your world, “Let there be joy!”

Bible Reading:  (click on the Bible verse to open in reader)

Luke 6:17-23

Isaiah 53:3-5

Luke 1:44 & 45

Let There Be Joy In Me:

What is the one event or circumstance that has brought emotional pain and grief to your life this year?  Can you give it to Jesus?  Pray this prayer:

“Jesus, I give to You my emotional pain and sadness.  I give to You my grief and my sorrow.  I relinquish it to You.  It’s Yours forever … I never want it back again! And today, Jesus, I receive the joy of Your presence!  Thank You that when You came to earth that You declared,” Let There Be Joy!”

HDonateello, World!

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Let There Be Joy - Day 23

Gifts Galore!

Did you know that Christmas is all about presents?!  Now ... before the self-righteous Scrooge of your personality rears its miserly head ... think about it for a minute.

Every joy-filled day of this miraculous season ... every holiday cookie that is lovingly baked ... every Christmas card that is hurriedly mailed is all about giving a gift.  Every Christmas party that you attend is about giving the gift of your presence to a group of people.  Every Christmas concert that you attend is about the gift of music being given to those in attendance.  Every meal that you bake is about giving your time and love to the people in your home.

The intent of the heart at Christmas should be to give a gift to someone who has been an important and vital part of your life during the preceding year.  Sometimes the gift is a loving sacrifice ... and at other times it is a necessary nuisance.

For some people you buy a gift because they feel that it is expected.  For others, you may buy a gift because you, quite simply, wouldn’t have it any other way.  Many people buy gifts out of tradition or out of family demands but most gifts are bought and given out of heart-felt love.  We give because we care and at Christmastime we long to express a small piece of our heart.

Heaven gave to every person in every generation the greatest Gift of all.  The Bible says, “A Child has been born for us!”  Imagine the miracle of that gift ... just drink it in the joy that God gave the gift of His Son for you!

No matter how much I love a person … no matter what value they have in my life … no matter how they have served me during the preceding year … I would never give away one of my children!  But God the Father, loved you so much, that He gave His dearly loved and treasured Son to you one Christmas morning.  You are the reason that God gave His Son.

The first Christmas, over 2000 years ago was all about presents!  It was about a Gift that came from heaven with your name on it ... with love, from God! It wasn’t wrapped in expensive red paper and tied with a bow of gold but it was a gift personally chosen for you just the same.

It was a present that Someone knew you were unable to live without.  He knew that any good thing in your life would be because of this precious Gift.  He intended that this particular Gift would change your life forever.

The gift has been given ... a Baby in a manger.  The Bible says, “God so loved the world that He gave His Son ... His only Son!”  When you love somebody ... you just have to give!  God loved you enough to give you what you wanted most of all:  unconditional love and a never-ending song in your heart.

Will you receive heaven’s gift this year?  The gift has already been given and is yours to receive.  It is the gift of a Father to His child.  It is a gift that will guarantee heaven’s entrance into all of your circumstances and a gift that will ensure your entrance into the joy of heaven.

Bible Reading:  (click the Bible verse to open in reader)

John 3:15-17

I John 1:1-7

Let There Be Joy In Me:

What is the most precious gift that you have ever given to someone?

Other than Christ, what is the most meaningful gift that you have ever received?

Write a thank you note to one person this Christmas season for the gift that their life is to you.

HDonateello, World!

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Let There Be Joy - Day 22

The Star in You

 “And having been warned by God in a dream not to return to Herod, the magi left for their own country.” – (Matthew 2:12)

When a man or a woman engages in wholehearted worship and gives something of value to the King of Kings, how easy it becomes to hear the voice of God!  Prior to this incredible event, the Magi had to depend on earthly directions and man’s best judgment.  Now, because they knew Jesus, because they had fallen on their faces in His presence and because they had given to Him that which was of value, the guidance of God was easy to discern.

Worship, in a believer’s life, always turns up the volume of heaven!  The Magi were accustomed to obtaining all of their knowledge from the patterns of the stars, from scrolls of the great minds of the day and from earthly governments.  Now these men heard the voice of the God of the ages!  These men are discovering the wisdom of obtaining their directions from God. 

Not only did they hear His voice ... they also obeyed His voice!  Quite a change for men who so esteemed academic prestige!

God warned the wise men in a dream to return home a different route from which they had come.  Herod intended to kill the newborn King of the Jews and was waiting to procure His location from the Magi when they returned through Jerusalem.

Worship not only enables a human being to hear the voice of God but worship often changes one’s direction as well.  Worship will give a new perspective on destiny and will determine the road that you should take in order to arrive at God’s intended location for your life.  Never underestimate the role that both worship and sincere giving play in enabling you to reach your ultimate destiny in Christ.

Just like the Magi, God may want you to hear and consider His voice alone and thereby change your direction.  Your part in life’s equation is to worship Him completely and give to Him sacrificially.  Worship and giving from the heart have always been, and will always continue to be, the most important parts of Christmas!

The wise men represent our culture and its misconstrued value of commercialism, humanism and materialism.  The wise men also represent humanity on a quest and on a journey for  true meaning in life.

I believe that when Christians begin to celebrate Christmas with sincere worship and in generous giving that our culture, however currently misguided, will begin to see the Star in us. When we are brave enough to celebrate Christmas with joy and with peace … with gladness and rejoicing … with love and purpose … commercialism will pale in comparison!

God cares about how you celebrate Christmas ... He actually cares very much about the choices that you are making this achingly beautiful season of the year.  God cares because Christmas is the greatest gift that He ever gave to those whom He loved the very most!

Bible Reading: (click on the Bible verse to open in reader)

Matthew 2:12

Let There Be Joy In Me;

What are some of the traditional ways of celebrating Christmas that you can let go of in order to celebrate it in a more genuine and worshipful manner?

Give the gift of prayer to someone this year.  Commit to pray for someone who is discouraged every day.

HDonateello, World!

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Give Me Another Mountain!

Joshua.  A leader.  A warrior.  An obeyer.  A mountain-moving man.

Who was this ancient man named Joshua and what does he have to do with your life … and my life today?

Joshua and his buddy, Caleb, were sent into the Promised Land along with 10 other men to spy out the land.  Moses, their statesman and leader, wanted these 12 men to bring back a report of what they saw in the land to which the people of God had been assigned.

While the 10 companions of Joshua and Caleb only saw the giants and the impossibilities in the land … Joshua and Caleb saw the infinite size of their God and the eternal power of His might!

Joshua and Caleb weren’t intimidated by behemoth human beings that they, too, saw with their very own eyes … but they were absolutely in awe of the God Whom they had chosen to serve.

Joshua and Caleb realized what you and I often miss … we each have a choice as we take new territory for the Kingdom of God.  Will we walk by sight?  Or will we walk by faith?

Will the giants in the enemy’s territory determine our perception of who will win?  Or will our flint-like gaze cast upon the power of God determine our courage and resolute faith?

Joshua knew that the giants of the land would be an easy prey for the people of God.  Joshua declared, in the face of insurmountable odds, “The Lord is with us … do not fear them.”

This man, Joshua, in his lifetime won too many battles to count.  He led the people of God into the blessings and victories of the Promised Land.

When others had seen only giants and defeat … Joshua had chosen to keep his eyes firmly set upon the strength and power of His God.

When others had fearfully exclaimed, “I can’t!”  Joshua declared, “God can!”

When others walked by sight … Joshua walked by faith.

When others disobeyed … Joshua obeyed.

When others ignored the voice of God … Joshua heard the voice of God.

When others turned tail and ran scared …  Joshua followed the Lord with his whole heart.

The years passed quickly by as Joshua followed God with his whole heart.  Joshua became an old man and had another choice to make.

Would he retire or would he keep fighting?

Would he put his feet up or would he lead the people of God to greater victories?

Would he buy a condominium on the shores of the Jordan River or would he ask God for more?

What do you think that Joshua did?  Consider the words of this man of faith:

Now behold, the Lord has let me live, just as He spoke, these forty-five years, from the time that the Lord spoke this word to Moses, when Israel walked in the wilderness; and now behold, I am eighty-five years old today.  

I am still as strong today as I was in the day Moses sent me; as my strength was then, so my strength is now, for war and for going out and coming in.

Now, then give me this hill country about which the Lord spoke on that day!”

On Joshua’s eighty-fifth birthday, he asked God for another mountain!  He declared that his strength had not waned and that he had the courage for more battles!

These days … I often feel like Joshua.  I know that I have been assigned to take new territory for the Kingdom of God.  I know that I will face giants in the land … but when I consider the power of God … the giants are like miniature fleas.

I know that I am not as young as I used to be … but I am begging God to give me another mountain!

And so … I want to ask you two questions today …

First of all … where are you in life?  Are you asking God for another mountain?  Or do you want riverfront property and a glass of iced tea?  You see … none of us can escape the call of Joshua.

Joshua’s call is a call of power and of faith. 

Joshua’s life reminds you and me that one man … or one woman … when filled with the power of God … truly can win battles too numerous to count!

What is the territory … the mountain … the enemy to whom you have been assigned?  Will you snore your way through life or will you wake up to the call and purposes of God?

And my second question for you is this … will you help me take another mountain?

My weekly blog is always for ministry … for encouragement … and for going deeper into the things of God.  But once a year … I have determined that I will let you know that I need you.

As you consider your year-end giving, would you pray about making a donation to Just Joy! Ministries?  Would you contemplate joining the team of this Joshua and of Just Joy?

Our mountains this coming year, in 2015, are exciting, huge and God-appointed! 

  • Just Joy! Ministries is taking a team of women to India to minister at an incredible women’s conference and to 100’s of children in impoverished orphanages.
  • Beginning on January 1, “Defiant Joy!” Radio will join Family Talk Radio on Sirius XM every weekday at 2:30 ET with the potential of reaching 28 million people per day!
  • The weekly blogs will continue to reach 1,000’s of people every week … the devotions on YouVersion will continue to go around the world with the power of the Word of God … Bible Studies, conferences, retreats, and worship services will continue to change the lives of women at this moment in history.

Hell will get smaller and heaven will get bigger.

Depression will be diminished and joy will be magnified!

Hope will live and breathe again in the hearts of desperate women.

Prayers will be answered and the voice of God will be heard!

All because you … and I … answered the Joshua call of God on our lives!

HDonateello, World!

Thank you for partnering with Just Joy! Ministries!

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Let There Be Joy - Day 21

A Change in Position and in Prominence

The Magi fell on their faces and worshiped Jesus.  This was full-blown, dynamic heart worship and not mere lip service in the manner of King Herod.  King Herod “said” that he wanted to worship the King of the Jews but it was lip service alone that was his intention.  While King Herod spoke of worship, it was murder that was in his ugly heart.

These learned and respected men, the Magi, who had possibly traveled as far as 800 or 900 miles to find the new born King, fell on their faces when in His dear presence.  Jesus was a baby, probably under 2 years old, when they arrived and yet still they fell down in wonder and in worship.  While Jesus was talking baby talk and babbling in a language only his mother could understand, these men who were known for solving the mysteries of the ages, lay prostrate in His eternal presence.

True worship always entails a change of position and a change in prominence.  In the presence of the Holy Child, these men cared not for tradition or liturgy.  They only knew that this little bit of a Boy was worthy to be worshiped and so they fell at His baby feet in heartfelt praise. 

Will you fall on your face this Christmas in the presence of Jesus?  True worship always involves joy!  These wise men had their academic world rocked with the joy that was found in the presence of Jesus Christ.  They had changed their academic regalia for a garment of praise.

Will you let go of your very human, emotional make-up and allow the joy of His presence to infiltrate all of the corners of your world?

True worship always involves a giving away of something valuable.  The Magi had brought treasures to the tiny King and His humble family.  What will you bring of value to Jesus this Christmas?  The Magi gave gifts fit for a King and what we offer Him can be no less.

Worship is the meeting place of God and humanity.  It is the moment when humanity falls on its face in joy!

The mistake that many of us make is that we are distracted by the “magic” of the season when what is actually occurring is the miraculous.  The miracle of Christmas is just one choice away.  Will you mistakenly yearn for snow, gifts and family?  Or will you lift your eyes to the miracle of Christmas?

You are loved so much … that a miracle has happened!  It is a miracle that divinity would be joined with our humanity!  It is a bona fide miracle that heaven would sing into our souls!  It is a miracle of heavenly proportions that where there was confusion and conflict and sin … now there is joy and peace!

Bible Reading: (click on Bible verse to open in reader)

Matthew 2:11

Let There Be Joy In Me:

What item of value can you give to Jesus this year?  Is it your time?  Is it a heartfelt gift to someone who is in need?  Is it the gift of encouragement?

Make a list of three people who need your friendship this year and then make arrangements to spend time with them over the holiday season.

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If this devotional has been an encouragement to you, would you consider giving a year-end gift to Just Joy! Ministries this Christmas season?

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Let There Be Joy - Day 20

Violent Joy!

The star led the Magi to the Light of the World!  The wise men did not need the advice or navigation powers of King Herod and his best men - they just needed to follow the Light of the World. 

Whom or what have you been following this Christmas Season?  Are you so tightly bound to the whims of the culture that all you can think about are sales, calories, postal lines and parties?  If you use those temporary signposts as the compass that guides you toward all things Christmas, you are going to be quickly lost in the swamp of holiday fluff.  However, if you can fix your heart and your gaze on the Star of Bethlehem then you will assuredly be led to a time of wonderment and worship.

When the magnificent star stopped them in their wealthy tracks, the Bible says that these learned men, “rejoiced exceedingly with great joy”.  And what a celebration began that night! 

Only 6 words: “rejoiced exceedingly with great joy” yet what richness their brevity holds.  These 6 simple words are some of the most expressive words in all of Scripture.

Rejoiced” is translated as “let the hope of future blessedness give you joy!  What rich intent and calling!  This word communicates to all of us, from every generation and at every moment in all of recorded history, that because of the Baby born in the manger, we can look ahead not with dread and worry but with hope and expectation.  When you encounter Jesus, there is reason to rejoice because of the many blessings headed in your direction.

Exceedingly” is defined as “greatly” or even “violently” or vehemently.

These first century professorial types did not just quietly bow down with their scholarly hands clasped in front of their wise faces.  The joy that they experienced in the presence of Jesus was an explosion of joy that knocked their mortarboards off their wizened heads! 

The joy of Jesus rocked their academic world!  These men were jumping up and down ... they were participating in the John-jump! 

The Magi were whooping and hollering because after years of study, after decades of hitting dead-ends as to the meaning of life, after a lifetime of frustrating nothingness … they had found the Creator of this miraculous universe … they had discovered the Answer to all of their unanswerable questions … they had at last discerned the wisdom of the Ages found in a toddler’s sweet babble.

These erudite men were participating in a violent explosion of joy!  The joy that Jesus delivers into your life should shake some things up a bit!

What needs shaking up in your life this season as a response to all that He is?  The magi had at last found a reason to celebrate because they had found the source of joy.

“Great” in this sentence means “with great effort of the affections and emotions of the mind.  It is significant that this particular definition of the word “great” includes the word for “mind”.  The Magi were men of scrolls and cerebral intensity; at the moment this star stopped in the presence of Jesus, all that they had ever learned or studied paled in comparison to this one momentous event. 

Being in the presence of the Creator of the Universe was such a life-changing opportunity that it infiltrated the very way that they thought and processed information.

And finally, but far from least in meaning, the word “joy” is rich in depth and in texture because it is defined as “the blessedness that the Lord enjoys”.  When these pedantic men discovered the location of the Baby Boy, they also discovered the mother lode of joy!  They hit a vein so rich and generous in joy that it changed every detail, both large and small, concerning their impressive lives.

Every blessing that the Lord has ... the Magi had … and you now have ... because of Christmas!

Bible Reading:  (click on the Bible verse to open in reader)

Matthew 2:9 & 10

Let There Be Joy In Me:

Does joy have anything to do with our circumstances at all? 

What has been the most joyful moment of your life?

HDonateello, World!

If this devotional has been an encouragement to you, would you consider giving a year-end gift to Just Joy! Ministries this Christmas season?

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Let There Be Joy - Day 19

Academic Weirdo’s!

The Magi specialized in astronomy, the study of the stars.  These learned, cerebral men were not Jews but they were pagan astrologers from the East.  Today we would term these wise men “diviners” or “magicians”.  They were wise in the way of secular science.  They are probably the types of people that you and I would stay away from today.  Perhaps, in the 21st. Century, we would call them “humanists ... “the left side of academia” ... “weirdos”.  Quite frankly … these wealthy, esteemed men were little more than academic nuts!

These magic men came to King Herod asking where they could find the new king because it was their ultimate plan to worship and revere Him Who was born King of the Jews.

King Herod was perturbed at this news and gathered the scribes and priests to figure out where the Messiah was to be born.  These leading church scholars of the day were able to quote to King Herod a prophetic word from Micah that confirmed that the heaven sent Ruler would be born in Bethlehem.

King Herod then called for a second meeting with the Magi and sent them to Bethlehem, telling them to let him know when the Messiah was found because, he, too, desired to come and worship this new born King.

Now the question that should be asked at this juncture in this historical account is this one, “Was King Herod actually going to worship Jesus?” And the answer should be an emphatic, “Absolutely not!”

King Herod was plotting to kill the Baby who had come to bring peace on earth!  The worship of King Herod was mere lip service.  His heart had no intent of worshiping the Christ Child although his mouth construed a thoughtless and irreverent lie with the desire of manipulating the plans of the Magi.

What is your plan this Christmas?  Will you only give him your lip service?  Will you say that He is Lord while acting quite a different way?  Christmas is a time when the motives of our hearts are laid bare. 

Will you worship Him with only your mouth ... or will your heart and your life join in the high praise that He deserves?  Only you can determine this type of worship. 

You choose whether to worship Him with lip service alone or bring to Jesus, the Baby in the manger, the worship that is accompanied by a lifetime of loving actions.

Bible Reading:

Matthew 2:1-8

Let There Be Joy In Me:

Do you have anyone in your who does not believe of refuses to believe in Jesus?  What gift could you give to them this year that demonstrates your true love for them?

What does it mean to worship the King?  Does worship always involve singing?  If not, what are some other ways that you can worship the Christ Child this Christmas season?

HDonateello, World!

If this devotional has been an encouragement to you, would you consider giving a year-end gift to Just Joy! Ministries this Christmas season?

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Let There Be Joy - Day 18

Do Not Be Afraid!

Angels are an intrinsic and dynamic part of the Christmas story.  Christmas simply would not have happened without these God-sent messengers from heaven.  We don’t know whether or not the angels were clothed in flowing, white robes, whether they had a halo that was sparkling or even whether or not they flew with wings into the Christmas scene, but what we do know is that these angels carried the heart of God concerning the momentous event that was about to take place!

Angels appear four times in the traditional Christmas story and each time, although they carried different pieces of information concerning what was to happen, their message is always the same, “Do not be afraid!”  It was what the angel said first to Zachariah, then to Mary, then to Joseph and finally to the shepherds on the hillside. 

“Do not be afraid!”

I believe that this just may be the message that heaven is sending to your heart this Christmas season.  Christmas plainly declares that Jesus and fear are mutually exclusive.  When Jesus arrives on the scene, there is no reason to be afraid.  His presence powerfully removes any reason for fear.

It is time for you to step away from your fear and into His presence.  I pray that this Christmas, and for every day of the coming year, that you will realize that when Jesus has been birthed in your heart, there is absolutely no reason for fear or for worry.  The message of Christmas has not changed much in 2,000 years and I can guarantee that the words of the angels are still ringing clearly into our 21st. Century world, “Do not be afraid!”

When your circumstances are falling apart, remind yourself, “Do not be afraid!”

When there is not enough money to pay the bills, remind yourself, “Do not be afraid!”

When you are dealing with disappointment, pain or loneliness, remind yourself, “Do not be afraid!”

One of the names that heaven has identified Jesus as is “the Prince of Peace”.  Jesus, the Son of God, has been given ruling authority in the realm of peace.  And in reality, there is no way you will ever experience peace without His presence in your life.  There is no way you will ever be the beneficiary of peace without allowing Him to rule and reign in you.

God has promised that He would give His peace to those whose hearts and minds are fully stayed on Him.  Peace is not the absence of trouble but it is the very real presence of God.  And because of Jesus, this Christmas, and every Christmas, you can rest in His overwhelming and satisfying peace!

Bible Reading:  (click on the Bible verse to open in reader)

Matthew 1:20

Luke 1:30

Luke 1:13

Luke 2:10

Let There Be Joy In Me:

What are some of the issues that cause fear to creep into your heart?  Today, apply Isaiah 26:3 to those issues.

HDonateello, World!

If this devotional has been an encouragement to you, would you consider giving a year-end gift to Just Joy! Ministries this Christmas season?

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Let There Be Joy - Day 17

The Song of the Angels

David Taylor came home from school sad and discouraged one day in early November.  With tears rolling down his freckled cheeks, he told his mother that his teacher told him that he couldn’t sing in the Christmas program.

“She said that I am awful and that I sing too loud,” David explained between sobs. 

David’s father was sitting in the living room reading the afternoon’s paper and overheard his son’s heartbreak.  Mr. Taylor was indignant and furious.  How could any teacher do this to any child?

Mr. Taylor decided to help his son learn how to sing and after dinner that night, he took David into the living room and had him stand beside the family piano. Mr. Taylor began to play the familiar melody of “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear”.  As David opened his mouth, a cat-like screech came out.

“David, part of singing is listening.  Listen ... then sing,” instructed the patient father.  “It came upon a midnight clear, that glorious song of old.”

David’s second attempt was worse than his first!  But when the father was tempted to give up, he thought of the unfeeling teacher and realized, “If a father doesn’t do this, who will?”

And so they continued, a patient father and his little boy, night after November night.  “… From angels bending near the earth to touch their harps of gold.”

The days of November faded into December, while Mr. Taylor and David spent every evening at the piano going over and over and over the melody to the song.  “Peace on the earth good will to men from heaven’s all gracious King.

And finally, the night before David was scheduled to sing before his teacher, the entire Taylor family gathered around the piano and declared, “The world in solemn stillness lay, to hear the angels sing.”  There was a satisfied silence at the end of the final stanza as the family grinned at each other.  David had learned!  David could sing!

When the day came that David sang for his teacher, she said that he could be in the program!  David was front and center in the third-grade Christmas concert.  He was angelic and on pitch as the song ended with the glorious thought,

“For lo, the days are hastening on, by prophet seen of old,

When with the ever circling years shall come the time foretold;

 When peace shall over all the earth, its ancient splendors fling,

 And the whole world send back the song which now the angels sing!”

Learning to sing had somehow changed the little boy, David Taylor.  While other children were making Christmas lists for Santa and stealing frosted cookies from the jar, David was by the piano, plunking out simple Christmas melodies.  When his siblings were out sledding and skating, David was singing at the piano, “Hark!  The herald angels sing, ‘Glory to the newborn King!”  Once the song of Christmas had nestled in David’s heart and voice, it had captured every ounce of his being.

On Christmas Eve, after the family had hung their stockings with care and left out the requisite cookies for the jolly old man of myth, Mr. Taylor looked out the window and saw his pajama-clad boy in the front yard looking toward the sky.

The father quietly walked out the front door and put his arms around David without saying a word.  The son leaned into his father’s chest and said, “The world is lying still, Dad.  Just like the song says.”

“Do you hear them, Dad?  Do you hear the angel’s singing?  I hear them ... do you, Dad?”

The father thought that he was teaching a little boy to sing a sweet song at Christmas time but what had really happened was that the little boy had taught them both to listen ... to listen for the angel’s song.

Bible Reading:  (click on Bible verse to open in reader)

Luke 1: 13 & 14

Psalm 148

Let There Be Joy In Me:

What is your favorite childhood Christmas memory?  Perhaps you could write it out and share it with your family this Christmas.

Go to a school or a church Christmas concert this year and enjoy the faces of the children.

HDonateello, World!

If this devotional has been an encouragement to you, would you consider giving a year-end gift to Just Joy! Ministries this Christmas season?

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Let There Be Joy - Day 16

They Are Playing Your Song

Shepherds were dirty, uneducated men with grime under their fingernails and sludge in their brains.  There were a group of these shepherds one night, huddled around a fire in the inky, black of night.  These muddy specimens of humanity were cold and shivering while trying to stay awake.  Their only responsibility in life was to keep track of a herd of dumb sheep that were restless, disobedient and lice-infested.

Shepherds were a hopeless crew of men ... with nothing to look forward to knowing that nothing about their lives would ever change.  Life can become quickly pointless if you are a man who lives with sheep drool on his clothes and sheep dung between his toes.

This night … this particular night … was no different from thousands of other dark, cold lonely nights for this woebegone band of brothers.  When the night couldn’t get any blacker and the sheep couldn’t get any more cantankerous, suddenly, in an instant of time, something so miraculous happened that life would never again be the same for them … or for you and me.

Unexpectedly, heaven exploded into their small, cold and dark world.  The song of the angels burst forth into the war zone of earth and proclaimed the joy of heaven into the hopeless and meaningless existence of the shepherds.  Stars were falling and bursting in rare and glorious colors while the heavens opened and a majestic angel choir began to sing a mighty symphony that can still be heard today!

Jesus invaded this dark, cold world with heaven’s joy and it is still His gift to you today.  His presence in your life makes shepherds dance and angels sing.  Your heart can become an explosion of joy because of the birth of a Baby over 2,000 years ago. 

You can receive joy because of Jesus ... you can walk in peace because of this Baby.

The first word that the angels used to describe the birth of Jesus Christ was the word “joy” ... and it should be the first word used to describe you as well!  Joy is the birthmark of a Christian because when you accept Jesus into your heart you are branded for life with His joy.  You have become a vessel of His presence where there is always fullness of joy.

Your life has now become purposeful as you carry the Christ child to this inky, restless world.  The hopelessness of your life has dissipated because you now understand the honor of transmitting the joy of His presence to the muddy specimens of humanity.

The song of the angels was never meant to be heard only by a solitary group of shepherds.  When the angels sang that night, they were singing to those of you with the drool of life upon your heart and the dung of circumstances in your soul. The symphony of heaven ricochets through the ages and has as its focused destination your cold and lonely existence.  Joy truly has come to your world and nothing will ever be the same again!

Bible Reading:  (click on Bible verse to open in reader)

Luke 2:8-11

Let There Be Joy In Me

Plan an evening of singing Christmas Carols this season.  Perhaps you could invite some friends to your home to sing or even go to a nursing home or hospital to sing the great lyrics of the season.

As you sing, let the meaning of the lyrics cleanse the drool and the dung of life that has fallen upon you.

HDonateello, World!

If this devotional has been an encouragement to you, would you consider giving a year-end gift to Just Joy! Ministries this Christmas season?

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Christmas in Ferguson & On the Streets of NYC

My heart is aching … is yours?

My heart breaks and my mind valiantly tries to make sense of it all … difficult verdicts that instigate violence, racial misunderstandings, words spoken in pain but with truth, heartbroken parents and grieving children.

Even as I write these words … I am wary of being misunderstood or criticized for the way I frame the feelings and opinions that quietly simmer within my heart.

No one is perfect … not teenagers … not policemen … not fathers … not mothers … not juries … not the media … not lawyers or judges … not white people … not black people … not Hispanics. 

We are all just the broken pieces of humanity trying to live peacefully and, at the same time, most of us are endeavoring not to injure anyone else with our own, personal and jagged brokenness.

Let me tell you a story …

Deryl Pendleton was the only black teenager in our youth group when Craig and I were youth pastors in Mobile, Alabama, in the late 1970’s.

Deryl Pendleton 1980.jpg

Can you even imagine that?!!

A white church … in the deepest part of the south … in a city known for searing racial tension … wholeheartedly welcoming in a black kid with barely a penny to his name?!  How we all loved that gangly boy with the massive Afro!

He taught us how to clap on the off-beats and how to worship God with rhythm and joy!

When Craig and I couldn’t afford a new car during those early pastoral years, Deryl, although still in college, gave us his ugly green Grand Torino.  Let me repeat … a black college student … in Mobile, Alabama … gave his white youth pastors … a car. 

Deryl grew into one of the greatest men of God I have ever known due to the Godly influence of both black and white men.  He lived with us during the 1980’s when his family was in transition. 

My boys, at 4 and 6 years old, fell in love with this giant of a man.  His skin was black, his laugh was infectious and his love for God was monumental.

Deryl taught my boys how to burp … who Michael Jordan was … and he mistakenly informed these impressionable boys that mint chocolate chip ice cream was a vegetable because it was green.

When I was tucking one of my dear little boys into bed one night, he asked me why he didn’t have black skin like his hero, Mr. Deryl.  I explained to this innocent child that just like some people have brown eyes and some people have blue eyes that some people have white skin and some people have dark skin.  I looked into my little boy’s blue eyes and said, “It’s the heart that matters, son.  Your heart is just like Mr. Deryl’s heart.”

Isn’t that what matters this Christmas in Ferguson, Missouri … in New York City … and at your home address? 

What matters is the heart. 

What matters is the capacity to love someone who doesn’t look like you … doesn’t dress like you … and whose life experiences have caused jagged edges that have the capacity to wound the brokenness in you.

I have no political answers to the simmering cauldron of racial tension that has erupted over the past few months in America.  I am not a judge or a lawyer.  I am not a politician or a policeman.

I am just a white woman whose life goal is to love more than I criticize …  to pray for understanding when I don’t understand … and to show compassion when others throw stones.

I am just a white girl who often wonders, “Jesus … what would you do?”

I have heard him whisper into my heart, “Throwing stones never heals anything or anyone.”

Caring relationships heal. 

Active and vibrant love heals. 

Prayer heals. 

Simple acts of kindness heal. 

Throwing stones at people only causes more pain.

While I believe wholeheartedly in the right of every American citizen to peacefully demonstrate for causes in which he or she believes, let me gently say, that even peaceful demonstrations are not the healing balm that America desperately needs during this, the season of Christ’s birth.

I believe that what will heal the gaping racial divide in this magnificent country of ours are personal acts of kindness, genuine hospitality and unselfish love offered to those who are different from us.

When was the last time you had someone of a different race in your home for dinner?

When was the last time that you thanked a policeman or policewoman for their service to your community?

When was the last time you invited a black family … or a white family … or a Hispanic family … or an Asian family to your church?

When was the last time you lavished encouragement on a black kid?

When was the last time you smiled at a black mother out with her children?  Or a white father out with his children?  Or a Hispanic family?

When was the last time that you offered a solid and sincere handshake to a policeman?

I believe that political speeches will not heal the racial plague that has infected our nation.

Caustic comments from the media or from outraged leaders will not assuage the pain.

Angry words are empty words.  Opinions are often more polarizing than they are wise.

Only love heals.  Only kindness alleviates trauma.  Only personal involvement and compassion will reconcile.

So … this Christmas season … as you buy gifts for those you love … perhaps it is time to include someone on your list whose skin color is a different shade than yours is.

As you ponder who to have in your home during the holiday season … maybe you could include a family with a different ethnicity than yours.

Drop some gift certificates off at the local police station for these public servants and for their families.

And invite someone, whose skin contrasts with yours, to worship with you at Christmas.

The world is waiting for the children of God to make a difference.

You may be one of the millions of Americans who believes that your vote has never made a difference in the political system.  Let me assure you that kindness makes all of the difference in the world.  Your heart has more power than your vote.

Nothing will change in America … until we all roll up our sleeves and get to work making a new friend or two. 

Nothing will change until we all choose to be kind rather than to be heard.

The greatest gift you have to gift this Christmas is the gift of love to someone who may look, act and talk differently than you do but whose heart is much the same.

“If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. But now faith, hope, love abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.” – I Corinthians 13: 1 & 13

What will people remember about you?

Will they remember that you were opinionated … or that you were kind?

Will they remember your righteous anger… or that you were a compassionate friend?

Will they remember that you were outraged at the media and at political leaders … or that your heart was big enough to love those who were different than you?

Kindness makes a difference … love always finds a way … and friendship is more powerful than opinion.  This, my friend, is what Christmas is truly all about.  The Baby in the manger came with the love of heaven in His heart.

He came to love sinners … and political leaders … and religious pontificators … and poor kids … and white mamas … and gangly black boys with massive Afros.  He came because He loved.

He came to heal broken hearts. 

He came offering kindness … friendship … and love. 

And in His coming, He healed.

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Let There Be Joy - Day 15

The Wonder of a Baby

It probably took Mary and Joseph nearly a week to travel the 80 miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem due to Mary’s advanced pregnancy.  Although the timing of the journey was inconvenient, perhaps it was a relief to get away from the wagging tongues at the village well and the old women who were counting the months on their fingers.  Mary and Joseph were required to travel away from their hometown in order to register for the census that had been decreed by Caesar Augustus.

As Mary and Joseph entered Bethlehem, the streets were teeming with a mass of humanity.  It was in those moments, while Mary was being jostled by the crowds, that she felt the first of her labor pains.  Perhaps her water broke on the crowded street, wetting her garment and the donkey on which she was riding.

Did she quietly whisper while in pain, “Joseph!  Please find a place for me to rest!”

Joseph found nothing more than a cave ... a barn ... a stable in which to prepare for the quickly approaching arrival of their Son.

The smelly stable was rife with manure and unkempt animals; the hard ground was saturated with the urine of the barnyard creatures and the clean hay was sparse.  Cobwebs were drooping from the ceiling while a mouse or two scurried by in fear.  The cows were munching on the pungent hay and sheep were sadly looking on as Mary labored and bled.  It was into this putrid atmosphere of mankind that the Savior entered the world!

My heart stops as I picture the enchanted face of this teen-age mother meeting her baby Boy for the very first time!  She was gazing into the face of God ... and He was looking back at her.  God had wrapped his tiny hand around her finger and around her heart as well.

He was her Son ... yet her Lord.  He was her Baby ... yet her Majesty.

Mary was spellbound not only by the ten tiny fingers and the ten miniature toes, but she was spellbound by the presence of God.  Who did this little person look like?  Did he have Mary’s father’s nose?  Or did He display Joseph’s father’s ears?  What we do know is that He came with the heart of God.

Mary could not take her eyes off of her baby Boy so great was her love for this heaven-sent Child.  And the most amazing miracle of all was that He could not take His eyes off of his young mother, a specimen of the world that He came to save, so great was His love for mankind.

Don’t take your eyes off of the true meaning of Christmas.  Know that when Jesus was born ... He was born for you.  Allow the Baby in the manger to wrap His love around your heart.

Bible Reading:

Luke 2:1-7

John 1:1-18

Let There Be Joy In Me:

Make a list of the reasons why you believe that God sent His Son Jesus to the world.

As you ponder these reasons, now make a list of appropriate ways in the 21st. Century to celebrate the grand entrance of Jesus unto planet earth.

HDonateello, World!

If this devotional has been an encouragement to you, would you consider giving a year-end gift to Just Joy! Ministries this Christmas season?

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Let There Be Joy - Day 14

The “Busy” of Bethlehem

After Mary returned home from visiting Elizabeth, Joseph and Mary probably had a private, hurried wedding ceremony.  There would be no grand wedding feast or public vows.  Everything had changed for this young, chosen couple.  They had to travel to Bethlehem, away from their hometown, to register for a census.

Bible historians believe that there may have been as many as 1 million visitors slogging the streets of this small, ancient city named “Bethlehem”.

What would happen if 1 million people invaded your town?  What would that do to the traffic patterns?  Or the lines at the mall? Or to the already overcrowded hotels? Or in attempting to get a reservation at your favorite restaurant?

When Mary and Joseph arrived in Bethlehem for the census, it was like the mall the day after Thanksgiving in every city in western civilization.  There was no Mapquest to find your way or priceline.com to pre-book a hotel room.

We have never experienced “busy” compared to Bethlehem on this momentous night.  There were donkeys braying and vendors shouting; there was a cavalcade of camels, people, tax collectors and city officials pushing and shoving their way through the dusty streets of Bethlehem.  There was the odor of manure and the smell of crushed and sweating bodies on every corner of every street. 

People’s nerves were taut, their pocketbooks were empty and they were all fed up with a greedy government!  It was a mass of humanity who didn’t know where they were or how to get to where they needed to go.  Sounds a lot like the 21st Century, doesn’t it?!

God chose this moment of chaos and confusion ... of frayed nerves and economic failure ... as the birthplace of His Son.  God chose to invade the traffic jams of humanity with His little Boy.

We have allowed our lives to become as chaotic, confusing and out of control as any city, in any part of the world, at any time in history.  The beauty of Christmas is that it was His presence that changed the purpose of the busy-ness!

God desired to neutralize our expensive way of living and so He sent the Prince of Peace.

God knew that we would need an answer for our stress-induced meltdowns and so He sent heaven’s Darling to be our answer.

In the midst of the mess of humanity and the endless voices of questions with no answers, a Savior was born.  My prayer is that this year, in the middle of your overly active life, that you will have time to gaze in wonder at the Baby in the manger. 

Do not be so wrapped up in the temporary aspects of the season that you miss the divine appointments of Christmas and the glory of it all! The glory of Christmas has always been and will always be the miracle of His presence ... a newborn baby lying in a manger.

Bible Reading:  (click on Bible verse to open in reader)

Luke 2:1-6

Isaiah 26:3&4

Let There Be Joy In Me:

Make a list of all of the things that keep you “too busy” during the Christmas season.  How can you shorten this list?

Plan a family night, or a gathering of friends, when you simply enjoy the Savior.  Plan to read the Christmas story from the Bible and sing some well-loved Christmas Carols.  Pray for one another.

HDonateello, World!

If this devotional has been an encouragement to you, would you consider giving a year-end gift to Just Joy! Ministries this Christmas season?

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Let There Be Joy - Day 13

God Is Always On Time

Elizabeth was too old to have a baby by human standards.  Her body had long ceased to exhibit the possibility of reproduction.  Even when Elizabeth was young and in her childbearing years, she had been unable to conceive a child.  Now, as a woman who had lived nearly 9 decades of life, there was no human possibility that this would ever happen.  There was not a sliver of hope that Elizabeth would ever hold a biological newborn baby in her wrinkled arms!

But God breaks all of the constraints of human standards.  His ways are higher than our ways and He is able to trump any limitation that we exhibit even in our strength. 

“Now the time had come for Elizabeth to give birth ...” Certainly this “time” was not Elizabeth’s chosen time.  God has a chosen time for prayers to be answered, for His mission to be accomplished and for miracles to take place. Elizabeth’s chosen “time” had most certainly been when she was a young woman but God’s chosen time involved a miracle!  Do not for one second believe that God has forgotten you or that He has not heard your prayers.  When God’s appointed time comes in its fullness, you will give birth to all that God has planned for you.

“Her neighbors and her relatives heard that the Lord had displayed His great mercy toward her; and they were rejoicing with her.”

Many times I believe that the Lord says “Wait” as an answer to our desperate prayers so that His glory is revealed rather than the certainty of mankind’s function.  Most women are able to conceive and bear children in their teens and twenties and even into their thirties and early forties, but it takes the intervention of God for a woman to experience the miracle of birth when in her eighth decade of life! 

Can you imagine the rejoicing of her relatives and neighbors?  Can you picture the scene as the women danced in circles in the village streets?  Can you envision how her friends lifted their hands in praise to Yahweh?

As John nestled into his mother’s arms, and as the nearly 100 year old eyes of Zacharias looked into the newborn eyes of his son, God was glorified.  Prayers had been answered.  Their story had just begun.

The story of Elizabeth and Zacharias is the call to live a righteous life and it is the promise of what persevering prayer will certainly obtain.  God is more than able to accomplish all that concerns you.  His part is to perform the miracles ... your part is to pray without ceasing and to live a life that pleases His heart.

Bible Reading:  (click on Bible verse to open in reader)

Luke 1:57-80

Psalm 138

Let There Be Joy In Me:

What has been the greatest miracle or answer to pray that you have ever experienced?  Write it out and share it with your family this Christmas season.

Define the word “miracle”.

HDonateello, World!

If this devotional has been an encouragement to you, would you consider giving a year-end gift to Just Joy! Ministries this Christmas season?

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Let There Be Joy - Day 12

Christmas Begins With Thanksgiving

One of my favorite benign addictions in life is people watching!  Now, I enjoy people-watching year round, but the time that it is most fascinating to me is at Christmastime.  When I am in the post office line, waiting to mail my packages and cards, I intently observe and even eavesdrop on holiday conversations and frustrations.  When I find myself at the mall, while trying not to be impatient, what brings pleasure to me is to focus my attention on others who are frustratingly focused on the buying of gifts and on the possibility of seasonal sales.  I often try to butt into conversations with words of encouragement or Christmas joy!

Would you like to join me in eavesdropping on one of the most glorious Christmas conversations in all of history?  I believe that this one celebratory exchange just may change your heart forever!

After the elder Elizabeth had blessed the Baby Boy in Mary’s virgin womb, Mary began to worship the Lord.  She broke out into a powerful response of worship and heartfelt adoration!  I have often wondered if, when declaring these words of praise, she fell to her knees and lifted her hands toward heaven!

"My soul exalts the Lord!”

This simple, exclamatory sentence were the first words out of Mary’s grateful mouth in Elizabeth’s presence.  Mary’s choice of words becomes especially beautiful when one realizes that the “soul” is the birthplace of passions, emotions, aversions and desires.  Mary’s soul was not in a state of confusion or denial but Mary was declaring the fact that regardless of circumstances and events that her emotions and desires would always take her to a place of worship.  Mary spent no time rehearsing what a difficult position God had placed her in or how embarrassed she was at what her family had to go through.  Mary took her emotions and her feelings to a place of genuine praise and worship.

And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.”  Mary’s soul and her spirit were joining in a beautiful duet of thanksgiving.  One’s spirit is the place in the human constitution that desires the Lord and all that He has.  The spirit is the place of walking by faith and not by sight.  In this spirit place of Mary’s life that was in constant communion with the Spirit of God, her response was identical to that of her spirit:  sincere and eruptive rejoicing!

How are you responding to circumstances or events that you don’t understand or perhaps might not choose?  What is your soul spending time doing this Christmas season?  Is your soul out of control with spending, eating and impatience?  Or has your soul observed the example of Mary and chosen to exalt the Lord?

My prayer is that your spirit and your soul will fall to their knees and that you will lift your hands and your voice toward heaven!  I pray that eavesdropping on this one holiday conversation will change the choices that you make not only at Christmastime but in every day of the coming year.

Bible Reading: (click on Bible verse to open in reader)

Luke 1:46-56

Let There Be Joy In Me:

Why is it so hard to rejoice in the Lord when our circumstances are difficult?

Make a list of 5-10 Scriptures that you can quote during difficult days of life.  

HDonateello, World!

If this devotional has been an encouragement to you, would you consider giving a year-end gift to Just Joy! Ministries this Christmas season?

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The 60 Most Valuable Life Lessons

Well, it has arrived … the week and the month of my 60th birthday.  Although that may not mean anything to you … it means something immeasurably significant to me.

Turning the big 6-0 means that my life is about to become richer and even more impactful. 

Turning 60 doesn’t imply that I am an old lady … it simply means that the lessons that I have learned over the past 60 years are valuable.

To me … standing on the threshold of having lived for 60 glorious, irreplaceable, incomparable years is something to shout about! 

Turning 60 is a milestone worth celebrating, indeed!  And so, I celebrate with you today!  My gift to you is 60 of the most valuable lessons I have learned on my life journey.

  • 1 – Love your parents with your whole heart.
  • 2 – Always keep a song in your heart. 
  • 3 – People deserve kindness more than they desire your opinion.
  • 4 – Don’t take parenting too seriously.
  • 5 – Take parenting seriously.
  • 6 – The reason you are on earth is to love difficult people.  Think about that       for a minute!!
  • 7 – You can never say, “Thank you!” often enough.
  • 8 – Time spent reading is never wasted time.
  • 9 – Time spent playing is never wasted time.
  • 10 – Love your spouse with your whole heart. 
  • 11 – Wring the joy out of an ordinary day every day.
  • 12 – Introduce yourself to a stranger at least once a week.
  • 13 – Don’t shovel snow when you should be planting flowers.  Know what           season of life you are in and respond appropriately.
  • 14 – Go to church even when you don’t feel like it.  Think about it … God is         waiting to meet with you where 2 or 3 are gathered in His Name!  I             wouldn’t miss that meeting for the world!!
  • 15 – Don’t get into debt.  Save more than you spend.
  • 16 – Call your grandmother.  And your mom.
  • 17 – Stay in touch with childhood friends.
  • 18 – Listen to more than one kind of music.  Include jazz, classical,                     worship, Big Band, oldies, country and Christmas music in your                   weekly choices!
  • 19 – Hang out with children every chance you can.
  • 20 – Hang out with older people every chance you can.
  • 21 – Make sure that your addictions are healthy ones.
  • 22 – Go to fireworks on the Fourth of July.
  • 23 – Listen to Christmas music starting on October 1.
  • 24 – Invite lonely people to your Thanksgiving dinner.
  • 25 – Hang up Christmas stockings even when your children are grown and           gone.
  • 26 – Watch football with your husband … or … go shopping with your wife!
  • 27 – Love your children with your whole heart.
  • 28 – Valentines are not just for elementary school friendships.
  • 29 – Keep a prayer journal.  Record not only your prayer requests but also        the answers to prayers that you have received.
  • 30 – Laugh with your kids once a day.  Tease them.  Tickle them.  Tell                 them jokes.
  • 31 – When you get to the end of your life, it will be faith, family and friends         that have made every day worthwhile.
  • 32 – You can never sing loud enough nor laugh often enough!
  • 33 – Long walks on a country road are a healing balm to the soul.
  • 34 – There really is no place like home.  Thank you, Dorothy, for those               words of wisdom.
  • 35 – And … contrary to the beliefs of Thomas Wolfe … you actually can go         home again!
  • 36 – Make sure that you create a home worth coming home to.
  • 37 – Don’t gossip.  It’s never worth it.
  • 38 – Get in the delightful habit of saying positive, affirmative words behind           people’s backs.
  • 39 – Laugh at yourself.  We all make silly mistakes!
  • 40 – Listen to the older generation.  Hear their hearts … listen to their                 opinions … smile at their memories … and learn from their wisdom.
  • 41 – Listen to the younger generation.  Hear their hearts … listen to their             opinions … and share in their dreams.
  • 42 – Christmas truly is the most wonderful time of the year because a Baby         changed everything!
  • 43 – It is actually more fun to believe!  I’ll take faith over fear every day of           every week!
  • 44 – You are never too old to dream a new dream or to set a new goal.               Never.  I want to dream an amazing new dream and set an impossible         goal the day before I go to heaven when I am in my 90’s!
  • 45 – Memorizing Bible verses is not just for 5th graders!
  • 46 – Worrying is a waste of valuable time.  Why worry when you can pray?!
  • 47 – Life is not about you.
  • 48 – Your life matters.  It matters very much.
  • 49 – Forgiveness robs the past of its power and powerfully changes the               impact of your future!
  • 50 – Babies and children are not spoiled by love.  They are spoiled by                 things.  Hold your babies.  Snuggle with your children.  A                           compassionate, kind and patient mother is a world-changing mother.
  • 51 – Be a better listener than you are a talker.
  • 52 – No one will ever understand like Jesus.  No one.
  • 53 – The words “I’m sorry” are among the most powerful words in the                 English language.
  • 54 – You are always just one day away … one prayer away … one choice           away … from the greatest breakthrough of your life!
  • 55 –“Jesus loves me, this I know” is the most beautiful, rich and true song           ever written.
  • 56 – You are not defined by how much you earn but by how much you give.
  • 57 – When you are too tired to work, too spent to dream and too weary to           take another step … you can always sing!
  • 58 – The great hymns of faith are the greatest treasure of any generation.
  • 59 – You are the most powerful when you are on your knees.
  • 60 – Read your Bible every day.  Your world will thank you for it.
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Let There Be Joy - Day 11

The John-Jump!

Elizabeth had been basking in the miracle of a surprise pregnancy late in life when Mary, her much younger relative, arrived at her house.  A heavenly messenger had just informed Mary that she had been chosen to carry the Savior of the world. 

Mary “went in a hurry” to the home of Elizabeth, the wife of a priest who had been raised in the home of a priest.  Perhaps Mary was longing for the stability and peace found in the home of Elizabeth.  Perhaps Mary was trying to escape the wagging tongues and the crude remarks made at the village well.  Perhaps Mary’s parents sent her to the older and wiser Elizabeth because they didn’t know what else to do with the outrageous story that their formerly perfect young daughter had surely fabricated.

When Mary entered the home of Zacharias and Elizabeth, the baby boy within the womb of Elizabeth, jumped for joy!  The instant that John, although unborn, sensed that he was in the presence of Jesus the Messiah, he began to leap for joy!

John, although still in his mother’s womb and unable to see Jesus with his natural eyes, knew that he was in the presence of the Lord. There is only one possible response to the presence of the Lord and that is joy!  Elizabeth expressed to Mary that this was no soft little nudging that she felt from the baby within but that it was a gargantuan leap!  John was exploding with joy at being in the presence of Jesus!

“In His presence is fullness of joy!” Psalm 16:11

The spirit of John was responding to the Spirit of Jesus Christ where there is always fullness of joy.

Perhaps as the years went by, these cousins would play at one another’s homes. I wonder if every time Jesus walked into the room if John, the lively one, would begin to jump up and down!

His mother, the proper Elizabeth, might have said, “John dear, stop jumping!  You are being so lively, son.”

“But mama, I just can’t help it!  Every time I am around Jesus my legs just start jumping for joy!” might have been this strong-willed son’s response to the quiet and peaceful ways of his mother.

When Jesus walks into our world, into our lives and into our homes, we must respond with complete joy.  Our heart should begin the John-jump!

In His presence is the only place that you will ever experience true and complete joy.  Joy is not found in having your children home for Christmas, in giving and receiving mountains of gifts, in decorating the house like a picture in a magazine or in eating culinary concoctions that will satisfy your holiday taste buds.  Those earthly delights are all connected to happiness but never to joy.  Joy is found in one place and one place alone:  in His presence!

Perhaps especially at Christmastime we are guilty of looking for joy in all the wrong places.  This Christmas, make room for His presence.  Spend time with your friends and family singing the beloved Carols of Christmas; read the story of His birth from the Bible with those you love.  The greatest gift you will ever give to someone whom you love is the promise to pray for them.

When Elizabeth told Mary that the baby within her womb “leaped for joy”, the word used to describe this action is the Greek word “skirtao”.  The word “skirtao” is used only one other place in the New Testament.

“Blessed are you when men hate you, and ostracize you, and insult you, and scorn your name as evil, for the sake of the Son of Man. Be glad in that day and leap for (skirtao) for behold,your reward is great in heaven. For in the same way their fathers used to treat the prophets.” –Luke 6:22 & 23

The presence of Jesus will instigate a genuine leap for joy in an otherwise ordinary life.  However, we are also expected to leap for joy when our life has fallen utterly and completely apart.  When we have been vilified and rejected by people and when we have been victimized by unfair circumstances, that is the time that we are commanded by Jesus to skirtao!!  To leap for joy!

There is no logical explanation for this joyful response in the face of emotional pain and deep disappointment but it is the healthiest response for a believer.  You can jump!  You can do the John-jump at the worst moment of your life because Jesus has promised never to leave you or forsake you.

This Christmas, respond to the joy of His presence especially if you are going through dark events and disappointing circumstances.  May I just gently but sincerely tell you that there is really no earthly reason not to respond to Who Jesus is with complete and utter joy?  There is no circumstance, person or event that has the power to rob one of His children of the joy of His presence.

Christmas has given us the assurance that while living on earth, we can be the beneficiaries of heaven’s joy!  When Jesus came, He paved the way for joy!

Don’t expect the festivities to relieve the pain – Only His presence can do that for you!  When Jesus came to planet earth, He paved the way for heaven’s joy to infiltrate our lives.

My prayer for you during this Christmas season is that you will know the joy of the presence of the Lord.  I pray that like John you will respond to His presence in the most miraculous of ways.  I pray that you will not mistakenly believe that joy is extracted from your circumstances but that you will worship the Baby in the manger and allow your heart to enter fully into the joy of Christmas.

Bible Reading: (click the Bible verse to open in reader)

Luke 1:39-44

Let There Be Joy In Me:

What is it in our life that is prohibiting you from doing the “John-jump”?

What are some ways that you can practice the presence of Jesus which is where there is fullness of joy?

HDonateello, World!

If this devotional has been an encouragement to you, would you consider giving a year-end gift to Just Joy! Ministries this Christmas season?

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Let There Be Joy - Day 10

Do Not Be Afraid

Joseph was a righteous man ... a good man ... and a kind man.  The word “righteous” in Matthew 1:19 is defined this way in the Greek: ‘used of him whose way of thinking, feeling and acting is wholly conformed to the will of God.”

Joseph was not making decisions based upon his own best interest but his decisions were birthed in the conviction of God’s perfect and holy will.  Joseph was learning a significant lesson this first Christmas season: celebrating the Savior is not about maximizing your own desires or preferences but it is about doing whatever it takes to welcome the Christ Child into your life.

This is a sobering lesson that we all need to be reminded of this Christmas season.  Christmas is not about how I feel, about my circumstances, or about the comfort of family and friends.  Christmas has always been and will eternally continue to be about making room for Jesus in the disappointed hallways of life.

Joseph planned to send Mary away privately although he could have had her stoned in the village square.  Joseph’s wise and kind plans were interrupted by a Christmas angel!  How wonderful to know that even when we are doing what we believe to be the highest good, God’s ways are still higher than our best intentions!  Christmas is a time when heaven’s best interrupts our good.

And what were the first words that came out of the angel’s beatific mouth?  “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid …” 

The words spoken to Joseph over 2,000 years ago ring clearly across the ages into our disappointment.  “Do not be afraid,” is the message of Christmas to your life today.

Has God interrupted your life lately?  Perhaps this Christmas you just might want to take stock of your life and realize that God has the right to interrupt your mundane.  God has the right to show you a better way of doing life because your very best human decision pales in comparison to what God has for you!

Was Joseph just an ordinary boy in love with an ordinary girl named Mary?!  Not a chance!  God always has plans other than ordinary for those who choose a lifestyle of uncompromising righteousness.  God desires to use each one of us as the vehicle through which Christ is revealed to every generation.

If you think that Christmas was only about Joseph and Mary ... you are more than wrong.  You might as well join the Grinch and Ebeneezer Scrooge in your opinion of Christmas.  God longs to birth Christmas through you at this time in history.  You are here to reveal the character and the heart of God.  It is what righteous people do - not only at Christmas but 365 days a year!

Bible Reading: (click on the Scripture reference to open in reader)

Matthew 1:18-25

Colossians 1:25-29

Let There be Joy In Me:

Pray this year that Jesus would interrupt your holiday plans.  Ask Him to invade your ordinary life with His extraordinary.

What fear issue does the presence of Jesus help you deal with?

HDonateello, World!

If this devotional has been an encouragement to you, would you consider giving a year-end gift to Just Joy! Ministries this Christmas season?

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Let There Be Joy - Day 9

Disappointment and Heartache

Engagement is one of the very happiest and dreamiest of times in the life of a young couple.  It is the singular moment in life when all hours are spent dreaming of the incomparable joy that is to come.  It is the extraordinary moment in one’s life when love seems perfect and trustworthy.

“Joseph, I am with child.”

Joseph and Mary’s love story had been horribly and unexplainably interrupted.  Mary is pregnant and Joseph knows that he is not the father.  Joseph surely must have wondered if Mary had been violated although she was quietly insistent that the child in her womb had been placed there by the Holy Spirit.  I wonder if Mary told him with tears running down her beautiful and innocent cheeks.

Did Joseph wonder if Mary was delusional?  How else was it possible to explain this catastrophic turn of events?  What was once lovely was now tinged with ugly.  What was once anticipated is now dreaded.

Joseph was a righteous man whose pure heart was breaking because his bride was with child and it was not his child.  Mary, his lovely and sweet Mary, had surely been taken advantage of by someone.  She was the kindest girl he had ever known but was the stress of the planning the wedding causing her to break under the pressure?  What could he do?  What should he do?!

Joseph apparently did not believe Mary’s story because his plan was to put her away privately.  This was the kindest and most loving choice for a young man found in the throes of betrayal.  He could have allowed her to be stoned before the baby was born.  Or, after giving birth, he could have allowed both her and the baby to be stoned.  Sending her away never to be heard from again was the ultimate loving sacrifice on Joseph’s part.

It is impossible to even imagine Joseph’s disappointment with God and with the person whom he had loved the most in the world.  Mary had been his world and now he would never see her again.  Did Joseph believe that the girl of his dreams had given her virginity to another man?

Joseph did not deserve this betrayal or this heartbreak.  What he “deserved” was a wedding day filled with joy and the promise of young love.

Now, perhaps, Joseph’s reputation had been sullied on the streets of Nazareth and his boyhood friends were snickering behind his back. 

Joseph had to face Mary’s parents and his own parents. Although he bore no guilt there was still the possibility that they would not believe him.  There was no nuptial frivolity for this disappointed, heartbroken young man.  All hopes of love and joy and promise had been dashed with the announcement of an early pregnancy.

Are you facing severe disappointment as you face Christmas this year?  My prayer for you is that you will allow the promise of Christmas to overshadow the painful realities of your life.  Do not allow Christmas to be defined by your disappointment but allow your disappointment to be forever changed because of the promise of Christmas.

Bible Reading: (click on Scripture reference to open in reader)

Matthew 1:18 & 19

Romans 5:1-5

Let There Be Joy In Me:

What is the most difficult disappointment that you have ever faced?  Does Christmas help ease the pain of disappointment or does it exacerbate it?

How does Romans 5:1-5 encourage you?

HDonateello, World!

If this devotional has been an encouragement to you, would you consider giving a year-end gift to Just Joy! Ministries this Christmas season?

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Let There Be Joy - Day 8

The Resolve of Your Heart

Mary, the very young, chosen mother of Jesus, utters one of the most courageous statements in all of Scripture.  In response to the announcement of the angel that Mary’s world had just been interrupted with heaven’s plan, Mary clearly said, “Behold the bondslave of the Lord, may it be done to me according to your word.” - (Luke 1:38)

A “bondslave” was someone who could have gone free but instead chose to stay and serve his or her master.  Mary willingly chose to offer temporary housing to the Savior of the world because that was God’s desire.  When her world collided with God’s ultimate desire, Mary died to self and submitted to God the Father.

When was the last time that you quoted Luke 1:38?  Has God asked something difficult of you lately?  How have you responded?  Have you said, “Behold the bondslave of the Lord, may it be done to me according to Your word.”

When God requires one of His children to lay down their will and their way for His best plan, often there is a struggle of the human will.  Unfortunately, rather than respond with the maturity and wisdom of the young Mary, many of us whine and complain.  Some of us even may have the audacity to question whether or not God even knows what He is doing.

What has God asked of you?  Has He asked you to love a difficult person?  Perhaps He has asked you to raise a special needs child or serve an uncaring boss.  God is looking for bondslaves: men and women who are willing to serve Him out of love.  God is looking for those who willingly submit to His ways and plans simply because their heart completely belongs to Him.  God desires men and women who will allow Him to interrupt their perfectly planned lives with His unbelievable and miraculous plans!  It’s called being a bondslave.

Mary’s pure heart and true resolve are revealed through the final words of her statement, “ ... May it be done to me according to your word.”  Is that the resolve of your heart as well?  When your will comes into conflict with God’s Word, God’s Word must win at all cost.  Like Mary, settle this issue of human will and the authority of God’s Word today.  I declare, with Mary, that in my life, it will always be done according to His Word because I am His bondslave.

Bible Reading: (click on the Scripture reference to open in reader)

Luke 1:38

Psalm 119:1-16

Let There Be Joy In Me:

What is the hardest thing that God has ever asked of you?  How have you responded?

What does it mean to respond as a “bondslave”?  What are some of the heart attitudes that a “bondslave” would embrace?  

HDonateello, World!

If this devotional has been an encouragement to you, would you consider giving a year-end gift to Just Joy! Ministries this Christmas season?

Subscribe to Carol's Blog by Email