Category Archives: Christmas Countdown 2018

Christmas Countdown 2018 Day 13 <3

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On very rare occasions, like maybe five times a year, I have this post ready to go and either scheduled or I can just open it and click “publish.”

The other days, you get me…

fresh off my devotions…

bed head…

coffee breath…

sleep remnants in my eyes and sometimes mascara stains down my cheeks depending on how diligent my face washing went the night before. 

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Which means you get pretty much the thoughts that are on me straight from my heart in the moment. 

And this morning, this girl on the other side of the screen is feeling tired and starting to wear thin a bit as I look at the calendar days left free to do Christmas prepping. 

So the passage today breathes into me just what I need to be reminded about. 

(I also am thinking how my high school English teacher would cringe at the grammatical errors I know I am making as I type…sorry Mrs. Shepherd wherever you are)

So let’s begin with the NKJ of John 17:13

But now I come to You, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves.

I can’t type it without hearing the Chris Tomlin song remake of Joy to the World…

Joy…

Unspeakable Joy…

But who’s Joy is it?

To whom does this JOY belong?

It is His JOY that fulfills us. 

In The Message, verse 13 reads…

I am on my way to you. But I say these things while I am still in the world, so that my followers will have the same complete joy that I do.

Complete Joy…that is exactly the Joy Jesus Christ has. 

Complete…as a noun…to the greatest content or degree.

Complete…finished ….in the verb form

Joy that has reached the furthest possible limit and can never be undone. 

That is the kind of Joy that He has…that He is…and that He is has conferred onto His followers as He agonizes in prayer in the Garden. 

Have you been deceived along the way to believe that God doesn’t want you to experience the fullness of JOY?

Now, not “happiness”…please understand.

There is a difference. 

Smiling cheerily and crowing on about how blessed we are because everything is just so perfect in our lives, and my my …. how God must love us to just give us all that and more…

No…

not “happy”…

but instead…

deep and true and eternal and complete….

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JOY

JOY that lights up faces in a too warm concrete block church in the Maasai bush…faces where flies are brushed away to they don’t rest and feed on the fluid around the lids and lashes of their babies. 

JOY that causes young people in a communist country to dance their praise to God and wander around looking for others to pray over so they too might receive this indescribable gift of true freedom. 

JOY that holds us tight as we stand by graves of ones taken far sooner than we ever would have thought we could bear and declares….

Our God is good…our God is faithful. 

JOY

Unspeakable JOY

That transcends all the mess and ugly of this world and our own tendencies to wander and says…

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I will rejoice in the JOY of… HIS salvation.

Joy bends our knees as we fall silent before the One who gave His all for us so that we could be fulfilled in Him <3

Christmas Countdown 2018 Day 12

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Good morning my friend and thank you for stopping by for Day 12 of our Countdown. 

I poured over today’s passage quite a bit and my mind mulled over it throughout the day yesterday. 

There is so much more to write about than time or attention by you could allow; so let’s get right to the passage.

I am going to do it a little differently today.

I am using The Message version from Eugene Peterson and sometimes will throw in the Contemporary English Version to expand the thought.

We will take it in pieces and I will add some pondering as we go along.

This is how I read the Bible often when I am journaling in the morning so let’s do it together today, shall we?

As long as I was with them I guarded them in the pursuit of the life you gave them through me (MSG) 

John 17: 12a

So much here.

In yesterday’s passage I didn’t comment on this, but Peterson uses this phrase in verse 11 –

“guard them as they pursue this life.”

This idea of pursuit, the action of pursuing life…this intrigues me. 

So often, I act more like my life is pursuing me. 

My actions reflect an attitude that I am somewhat like a leaf on the top of a flowing river that is my life and it takes me where it will…but these words of Jesus convey the idea that “LIFE” is something I need to be actively going after. 

And that my LIFE is something He gave to me…thus it is worth and worthy of PURSUING. 

This year I have tried to remind myself frequently that my day will go better if I consistently make good choices from the very start.

One good choice leading to another. 

I have a chronic problem of letting time get away with me…see…that river current that I picture as something that controls and moves me along…instead of what Jesus says here about life.

He PRAYS for God to GUARD His disciples, His followers…so they are single minded in the PURSUIT of the life…sorry…but I must emphasize this like I was penning my thoughts in my journal so…

Single minded in the….

PURSUIT 

of

the L.I.F.E.

they had received THROUGH Him <3 

Precious. 

Then He goes on to say…

 I even posted a night watch…(MSG)

John 17:12

Do you know what I thought of when I read this with fresh eyes?

What did Jesus often do when He was traveling with His disciples? 

Well, besides teach and correct and keep them from doing stupid things.

He would go off by Himself to lonely places and pray. 

He would send them on and then pray through the night. 

He would get up early and go off by Himself to pray. 

He PRAYED…and that just might be the night watch He posted. 

So a couple of things on this part:

First, there must be something quite powerful that happens in prayer if the Son of Man guarded His people with it. 

Second, does anybody else freak out just a teeny bit to think how important prayer is and how little we really do it?

Third… and this one will make your head hurt…you and I must come to the realization that while God is Sovereign and we, as Christians, tend to fall back on this idea always that everything will work out because God is in control and we treat our prayer life like it is just something to occupy and calm us while God solves the problem….we really need to recognize that God set it up to work through the prayers of His people…

so get to it, my friend.

Get to it.

Make it your business to prayerfully set up watches in this night season of our country, the Church, your family … all of it.

WWJD?

He would be making prayer a priority. 

And not one of them got away (MSG)…not one of them was lost (CEV) 

except for the rebel bent on destruction (the exception that proved the rule of Scripture) MSG

Here is a time in our journey when I wish I had either not attempted to look closely at a passage OR that I was a true Bible scholar and could help you all out here with the difficult questions we must face. 

We have to acknowledge that Jesus knowingly called a traitor to be one of the twelve. 

We have to scratch our heads and ask…did Judas have a choice…could it have gone the other way? 

Would God hand pick someone to betray His Son or because He is God and knows the end from the beginning, did He just know Judas would do that and so had the prophets tell it in advance?

And as we collectively nod our heads and feel a slight easing of the perplexity this verse introduced…can we just stop and back track to that previous phrase….

As long as I was with them…I guarded them…I even posted a night watch…

Because it would appear that there are options for all of us and even though God knows how it will all turn out, there is work on our part to be done. 

And we have to face the fact that while Jesus prayed for Peter that when he was sifted by Satan, he would come through…so how come he didn’t pray for Judas…or did He and yet, it was destined for Judas to be a …. well…Judas? 

Ah Advent…the tension in the waiting…we feel it today with this passage, don’t we?

Be blessed as you think on this passage today and what God might be speaking to your heart. 

And since I stretched myself and you today…and I love you and can’t stand to leave you on such a challenging thought without something to make you smile…

some pictures Rachel snapped from Saturday…

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Christmas Countdown 2018 Day 11

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Day 11…how can this be?

The month is slipping by so quickly and I am thankful God led me to share this one passage with you line by line because in the hustle and bustle that is ensuing and building … this little part of my day has become a haven. 

I pray it is a refreshing stop in yours as well. 

The pause and the focus shift to this prayer of Jesus in the Garden has helped to ground me on the solid foundation of His finished work and helped me keep the celebration of His birth in perspective. 

I do believe verse 11 is one of my favorites, if that is allowed to have a “favorite” verse in a prayer prayed by Jesus just before He is going to suffer and die in my place…but this one is one that jumps out and grabs my heart and soul and spirit. 

So today…just the purity of the Scripture before we get on with tasks to accomplish…

Holy Father, I am no longer in the world. I am coming to you, but my followers are still in the world. So keep them safe by the power of the name that you have given me. Then they will be one with each other, just as you and I are one.

Contemporary English Version

John 17:11

and The Message

For I’m no longer going to visible in this world; they’ll continue in the world while I return to you. Holy Father, guard them as they pursue this life that you conferred as a gift through me, so they can be one heart and mind as we are one heart and mind. 

John 17:11

So much to love in these words…

Holy Father…

Do we call Him that?

Do we speak to God as if He is not only our Father…but our HOLY Father? 

Or have we become so casual in our displays of worship that we have forgotten that Moses was told to remove his sandals because he was standing on holy ground? And this just in front of a burning bush…not even face to face. 

That to see His face would mean to die because the Holiness was that intense.

Have we forgotten how to show awe and reverence and have we become so blinded by political correctness that we have completely watered down the kind of power that carved His laws into stone the way you and I jot a reminder on a post it note?

Have we forgotten that He engraved us on the nail scarred hands of His own self because holiness matters that much to Him?

And how about the assurance of Jesus that He was between here and there as He prayed?

He knew His time on earth was closing down and He knew where He was going…and yet He wanted to pray provision and protection over His followers for the in between the payment on the Cross and Resurrection from the grave. 

Because He had covered them with His name…with His power….with His love…but for a short time, He who is without sin would become sin…

please…

pause here.

Don’t gloss over this.

Jesus Christ, fully God and fully man, lived a sinless life on earth but would take on and become all the sin of all the world…and face the judgment of God in eternal death…and then He would descend and take back what we gave away and He would rise again…victorious.

And, in the meanwhile…while all that was happening…He was entrusting fallen mankind into the loving hands of a just and righteous and yes, holy God…to hold us by His Name until He could purchase us back from what we rightfully deserved. 

Last of all we see the unity. 

The unity of the Trinity and the unity of believers. 

One heart and one mind. 

We must be in agreement with each other AND with the Father, Son and Spirit. 

We cannot compromise on this. 

We cannot come into “agreement” as a church and yet be outside of agreement with the Trinity. 

We cannot agree to disagree and divide Truth like it was opinion. 

God is not divided in His thoughts and heart and Spirit. 

And it is our business as individuals and as the Church to not inform God of what our mind and heart are set on.  

No.

Until He makes His second appearance here on planet earth…we are to be about discerning what HIS heart and mind are set on. 

And then we are to come into agreement together WITH HIM. 

Be blessed today as you reflect on this prayer of Jesus for His disciples. 

If you say you are a follower of Christ, then meditate on His thoughts toward you today <3 

Christmas Countdown 2018 Day 10

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Oh friends…it’s a Monday. 

The mother of all Mondays for this tired Lola <3

Rachel and Zach had a couple of holiday events this weekend and since we had planned to meet up at a reindeer ranch between our two houses, they suggested we host the band of brothers and little miss thing for a sleepover. 

I laugh as I type these words because while yes, they all did sleep…Lola and Papi … not so much. 

But we had a grand time and I most likely will need to share some pictures tomorrow…but for today…laundry and sticky floors are singing a sweet siren song that cannot be ignored…so without ado…

Yesterday we looked at verse 9 and the way Jesus took time to set apart prayer for just His disciples. 

Focused prayer on one person or a certain set of people is okay. 

Often in my prayers, I feel pressured by some outside and unknown force to be all inclusive. 

I will find myself interceding passionately for one child or a certain friend and then this voice whispers..what about your other children…what about so and so…they need prayer too. 

Can I give you some prayer advice here?

If that whisper prompts me into deeper intercession for another and then another and it flows from the Spirit in me…that’s God.

If it prompts me to pray wimpy, guilty prayers to “prove” that I love the others as much as that one I had been praying for…THAT, my friend, is NOT the still, small voice of my God. 

And now on to today’s verse…

And all Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine, and I am glorified in them. 

John 17: 10 NKJV

Let’s break that down into the points that jump out to my tired brain this morning…because yes, while I have worked ahead on other verses to this point…I am being honest and today’s is off the cuff…

First off…I see the unity of the trinity in this verse. 

All that belongs to Jesus, belongs to God. 

All that belongs to God, belongs to Jesus. 

Second, and this is from the commentary study I have been using…only Jesus can make this statement. 

You and I can pray for our loved ones and we can say…all mine are Yours. In other words, whether they currently belong to You or not, I am giving them to You and they belong to You, in my heart, by faith. 

But we cannot say…all Yours are mine. 

Only Jesus owns it all. 

Only Jesus paid for it all…for all of us. 

We borrow what belongs to Him through our relationships with each other. 

We belong together to Him. 

We love through Him. 

But only Jesus owns it all. 

All the Kingdom…all the Power..all the glory…goes to Him. 

I am called mom, wife, friend, sister, daughter…etc…etc…etc…but only Jesus Christ is LORD and Savior of all the people I love. 

And all the people I like…and all the people I don’t particularly care for ….and all the people who get on my last nerve and make me want to make them disappear from me ever having to deal with them again. 

Only Jesus has the right and the righteousness and the authority to say to God…My people are Your people…Your people are My people. 

Because only Jesus made each one of them and knows them and came for them. 

This may seem just a subtle difference in semantics, but I think if we would stop today and ponder over that a little, we might find some areas where we have proclaimed ourselves sovereign over some humans who really need to be handed over to the One to whom they rightfully belong. 

And last of all…

He is glorified in the disciples. 

They are not glorified in themselves. 

Whatever they will do in answer to the prayers He is praying in that dark and hard and lonely place, will bring glory to Him. 

And so it is that you and I, as we journey onward…we are bringing glory to Him. 

Makes me want to stop and step outside my own little bubble of me, myself and I and give Him glory…even on a Monday <3 

Be blessed…ponder a little the magnificent God we serve…and I will see you tomorrow <3

Christmas Countdown 2018 Day 9

It’s the second Sunday of Advent and just like I knew would happen when I planned to do a verse a day for our Countdown, we had the first of the super busy weekends that will finish this marathon that will carry us to the end of the year 2018.

Right now I have two breakfast casseroles resting in the fridge to pop in the oven tomorrow morning and take to our 8 AM Sunday School class breakfast. 

In various beds around the house are sleeping grandchildren and the man I married thirty-seven and a half years ago. 

Today he trekked with me to meet up with this crazy crew at a reindeer farm. 

I probably could have bought a fairly nice North Face jacket for what we spent on gas, lunch and tickets for the “Reindeer Experience” and I can tell you….I would have pawned all my coats and a couple of pairs of mittens just to see their sweet faces as those amazing animals came right up and ate out of our hands.

Because they are my people. 

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pc Rachel Maxwell

They are worth far more than any amount of cash I could ever tuck away in a bank account. 

To love them and know them and spend time with them….to think about them all the time…and their Uncle John and Tia…oh..that’s my heart beat on planet earth. 

And sure I care about a lot of people, but these … these are my flesh and blood. 

So when Jesus says in John 17:9…I am not praying for those who are of the world…it’s not that He didn’t come to save all of us…but as He is finishing it all out…He is praying for His people. 

The ones who loved Him as good as us selfish, goofy, flawed humans can grasp love.

Because there were others who didn’t love Him.

They didn’t choose Him.

They didn’t want to be part of Him and so they were not part of Him.

So as He prayed in the Garden….He wasn’t being mean….He was just praying for the ones who were His.  

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PC Rachel Maxwell

He was praying for the ones He had traveled with and “done life with” and who had recognized that He was from God and believed He was Messiah…and even if they didn’t get it right all the time, they were willing to hang in there and learn some more when they messed up. 

So today, if you are having some time with your people…your family by blood…your family in the Blood…your family that used to be just friends but have found such a deep place in your heart that you may as well share the same DNA…and you are loving them so much that sometimes it almost hurts…

remember…

YOU…

You are HIS people. 

He is praying for you. 

He loves you with that intensity and more…and He loves you perfectly.

Rest in that today my friend.

Rest in the truth that if you have believed in Him and have believed HIM…

YOU ARE HIS PEOPLE…

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PC Rachel Maxwell

Rest well in that today …. deer….<3