Author: StephanieBBlake

I love to help others focus on the one thing that's most important in life through my ministry, teaching and writing. As Vice President of Xtend Ministries International - www.xtendinternational.com, I travel extensively with my husband. I maintain two websites: www.onefocusministries.com and stretchmoney.wordpress.com. On the One Focus site, you can find free Bible studies, devotionals and information about my first book, "The Prayer Driven Life". My book, "Money: How to Be Rich Without It and How to Stretch It Using Ten Hints from the Past and the Technology of Today" was the inspiration for stretchmoney.wordpress.com. Money saving hints are contained throughout the book and this site was created to continue to give helpful hints on stretching money or having the proper view toward money.

Dressing Properly

When I am attending an event in another country or even my own, I try to make sure I am dressed properly and know what is expected of me. Some civic events or worship services are very formal. Others are quite informal. When traveling, I always carry a skirt with me. I can never go wrong wearing a modest blouse and a skirt.

Anyone visiting the President of the United States, the Queen of England or any other national head of state would first be taught the proper protocol to exercise while in their presence. This would include how to dress, what to say and what not to say. No one would expect otherwise.

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When it comes to entering the presence of God, however, that is another story. Disrespect toward Him abounds. He is often referred to as the Man Upstairs or worse still, His name often comes in front of a curse. There is even a nonchalant attitude about coming to the house of God.

If we would dress differently visiting Buckingham Palace, what statement does it make to God when we wear shorts and flip flops in His house? Certainly we should not judge those who have nothing else to wear and they should be welcomed in church. Sometimes, however, those who do have nicer clothing are encouraged to come to church in their beach clothes so they will feel more comfortable. That makes me sad.

It is also wrong to wear fancy clothes to church just to be noticed but our dress reflects our attitude. God knows our hearts and whether we respect Him. By those who come near Me I will be treated as holy and before all the people I will be honored (Leviticus 10:3 NAS).Nigeria 225

In Jesus’ parable of the wedding feast, the man without the proper wedding garment was cast away into darkness. Access to God came at a high price – the price of His Son. Jesus provided pure white garments for us. We need to wear them.

And Jesus answered and spoke to them again by parables and said, “The kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who arranged a marriage for his son…But when the king came in to see the guests, he saw a man there who did not have a wedding garment. So he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness…(Matthew 22:1, 2, 11-13).

The Perfect Student

Every teacher must be a student first. Jesus, well known as the Master Teacher, was also a student.

The Bible is fairly silent about the years between Jesus’ birth and public ministry – with one exception. In his orderly account of the life of Jesus, Luke includes a unique story in his gospel. He must have had a reason.

His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover (Luke 2:41).

Jesus’ family had a custom of traveling to Jerusalem yearly to observe the feast of the Passover. There is no other occasion where Jesus’ exact age is given, but here Luke makes a point to tell Theophilus that on this journey to Jerusalem Jesus was twelve years old.

And when He was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem according to the custom of the feast (Luke 2:42).

The twelfth year was very important to Jewish boys. At the end of that year, Jesus would go through a ceremony where He would become a bar mitzvah or “son of the commandment”. At age thirteen, he would have the same rights and responsibilities as an adult.

His heavenly Father had been preparing Jesus for this day. “Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?” (Luke 2:49). Jesus was already aware of His role in the Godhead to provide salvation for sinners. He had voluntarily emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Philippians 2:7-8 NASB).

Jesus went through the human process of learning just as we all do. He had to learn to walk, talk, feed Himself and how to apply what He was taught in His home and in the synagogue to His life.

And the Child grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him (Luke 2:40).

On this trip, Jesus sought out the teachers in the temple, listening to them, asking questions and responding to theirs. They were so engaged in conversation that they sat together for several days. As His family had traveled to Jerusalem in a large caravan, it was not unusual that He had not stayed by their side. When the caravan left the city, His parents supposed He was with their group. When they realized He was not, they searched for Him, finding Him sitting in the midst of the teachers – absorbing all they had to say.

When they had finished the days, as they returned, the Boy Jesus lingered behind in Jerusalem. And Joseph and His mother did not know it; but supposing Him to have been in the company, they went a day’s journey, and sought Him among their relatives and acquaintances. So when they did not find Him, they returned to Jerusalem, seeking Him. Now it was that after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers (Luke 2:43-47).

The type of conversation Jesus engaged in with the teachers was common then and is a great teaching style even today. If you have ever taught a lesson of any kind, you know that when your student listens intently and asks questions that he is interested and is “getting it.” The interchange between teacher and student helps cement the lesson material in the student’s mind. It is also very gratifying to teachers when they observe this depth of understanding.

Then He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them…. And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men (Luke 2:51-52).

Just as others grow and learn, so did Jesus. He grew and He increased in wisdom.

Later in His adulthood, the Jews marveled because of His teaching, wondering aloud, “How does this Man know letters, having never studied?” (John 7:15).

Jesus’ reply to this query was similar to the psalmist: I have not departed from Your judgments, for You Yourself have taught me (Psalm 119:102). God the Father taught Him.

Jesus answers them and said, “My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me. If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority. He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but He who seeks the glory of the One who sent Him is true, and no unrighteousness is in Him (John 7:16-18).

Jesus, as the Son of Man, was always a student of the Father. And, having become man, he humbled himself by living a life of utter obedience, even to the extent of dying, and the death he died was the death of a common criminal (Philippians 2:7-8 J. B. Phillips New Testament).

…though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him (Hebrews 5:8-9).

There should never be a time when we stop learning. Even teachers need refresher courses; professors need to study to keep abreast of current affairs; doctors and scientists must be aware of the latest research; preachers and Bible teachers can always discover something new as they study. Throughout life, we are students.

Jesus was the perfect student and gave us an example of how to be one as well. He was humble, obedient, and totally focused on knowing and doing the will of the Father.

Let this same attitude and purpose and [humble] mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus: [Let Him be your example in humility:] (Philippians 2:5 Amplified).

If Jesus, who was God and perfectly fulfilled the law, learned obedience from the things He suffered and stayed focused on the will of God the Father, how much more should we be determined to be humbly obedient to God and do His will?

Stephanie B. Blake

March 2015

Unless otherwise indicated, scripture references are from the New King James version.

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Biographies and Personal Testimonies

If I admire someone for their strong ethical principles in public life or have enjoyed reading an author’s works, reading their biography often adds to the depth of appreciation I have for that person. For instance:

22541929Billy Graham’s integrity throughout the years of his ministry are inspiring. The biographies I have read about him have cemented my admiration of him.

26779My favorite daily devotional book is My Utmost for His Highest. Reading Oswald Chambers Abandoned to God: The Life Story of the Author of My Utmost for His Highest added to my appreciation for Oswald Chambers. Many things about his life surprised me, but nothing disappointed me.

705983The poetry of Helen Steiner Rice is simple, clear and compassionate. We gave a copy of In the Vineyard of the Lord: Lights and Shadows from the Life of Helen Steiner Rice to my husband’s grandmother in 1982. After my husband’s father passed away, I found that book in his mother’s trunk and brought it home. I’m glad I did. It is a great testimony of a woman who used her talent for God.

1059875I thoroughly enjoyed reading We Had Everything But Money, a collection of true stories of people who lived through the Great Depression. Many of these testimonies were written by family members who were proud of their loved ones, their attitudes, their contributions to others and their examples of the truth that happiness doesn’t come from money. These people were not famous, but their stories impacted my life.

Few of us will have a biographer ask to write our story. It is usually famous people who receive those requests.

We are, however, well known to God. Those of us who are His children have our names written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. I believe there is also a possibility that He has written the stories of His children down in another book – a collection of stories about those who love Him.

You number my wanderings; Put my tears into Your bottle; Are they not in Your book? (Psalm 56:8).

Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, The days fashioned for me, When as yet there were none of them (Psalm 139:16).

Then those who feared the Lord spoke to one another, And the Lord listened and heard them; So a book of remembrance was written before Him For those who fear the Lord And who meditate on His name (Malachi 3:16).

The Biblical Principle of Thrift

Although God’s resources are unlimited, His word records a basic principle of thrift.

In Old Testament times there was a custom of allowing the poor to follow behind reapers in order to pick up grain that was left behind. This is still practiced among some grain farmers. Even generous owners of vineyards may allow free access to their vineyards after their workers have gathered the grape harvest.

boaz_and_ruth__image_9_sjpg1141Illustrated beautifully in the story of Ruth, Boaz told her, “Do not go to glean in another field, nor go from here, but stay close by my young women. Let your eyes be on the field which they reap, and go after them” (Ruth 2:8-9).

Waste is the careless use or expenditure of goods for no purpose and is never commended in scripture.

On two separate occasions, Jesus publicly practiced this principle of stewardship.

thAfter a day of ministering to a multitude, the disciples suggested Jesus instruct the people to leave so they could go into the villages and buy food. Instead, Jesus fed five thousand men plus women and children with five loaves and two fish – miraculously multiplying the food. After they had all eaten and were full, they gathered up twelve baskets of leftovers.

In a similar circumstance, Jesus fed four thousand men plus women and children with seven loaves of bread and a few fish. As before, after they were all full, the disciples took up seven large baskets of what was left.

We do not have the ability to multiply our resources. That is God’s prerogative. We can apply His principle of thrift and make the most of what we have – being careful not to waste what He has provided.

Jesus had a spiritual application in mind as well as the practical provision. When the disciples misunderstood His admonition to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees and thought it was because they had forgotten to bring bread, His response was:

“O you of little faith, why do you reason among yourselves because you have brought no bread? Do you not yet understand, or remember the five loaves of the five thousand and how many baskets you took up? Nor the seven loaves of the four thousand and how many large baskets you took up? How is it you do not understand that I did not speak to you concerning bread? – but to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees” (Matthew 16:8-11).

(This was first published on my other blog: http://www.stretchmoney.wordpress.com)

When All You Can Do Is Pray

Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you…(1 Samuel 12:23).

Have you ever told a friend in need, “All I can do is pray”, as if it would really be better if you could perform some action rather than JUST pray? Sometimes if you are near the loved one, it is possible to help in tangible ways – shopping, cooking a meal, picking up children from school, babysitting, cleaning their house, etc. Often prayer becomes an addendum to what we can DO. It is when we are not near the one we are concerned about, we might say, “All I can do is pray.”

Lest you think that praying is secondary or not enough, hear the testimonies of these men of God.

George Mueller

George Mueller, a 19th century English evangelist and founder of orphanages, was known to have kept a detailed journal of his prayers. One page was devoted to his prayer and another to the answer. Over his lifetime, he calculated that fifty thousand of his requests had been answered.

R.T. Kendall

I have been conscious of many people praying for me over those twenty-five years. One gets a sense of being borne “on eagle’s wings.” All over Britain, I had total strangers say to me, “I pray for you every day,” or “I pray for you every Saturday evening – or Sunday morning.” This was almost overwhelming. I sensed a sovereign overruling of grace and prayer more times than I can count, which enabled me to prepare and preach sermons. I attribute this to the prayers of God’s people.

Notice that R.T. Kendall (who served as pastor of the great Westminster Chapel for twenty-five years) did what he could to prepare his sermons and followed through with his commitment to preach them. It was the prayers of others that gave him the sense of being borne “on eagle’s wings.”

Bill Gaither

 When we’re on the road we usually have about fifteen people on stage with us. I’m sure they get tired of my calling them all around before the concert every night and hearing me say, “Focus, focus. Why are we doing this? Let’s remind ourselves again why we do this.”…. One night I simply said, “Let’s pray,” and didn’t close until the usually vocal ones had finished praying and there had been enough awkward silence to start bringing out some of the others.

When you wait, you are often rewarded. From here and there came heartfelt prayers from some who had always let someone else do the praying in the past. And the longer I waited, the more open and sincere and vulnerable the prayers became. Soon people were confessing bad attitudes, frustration, impatience, homesickness. Something was happening. We were getting our eyes on Jesus, and God was pointing out our failures. We were drawn close in a special way, and the concert that night was one of the best we’d had in a long time. How much better that is than a hastily called minute of prayer where somebody thanks God for the opportunity and asks Him to bless us. That’s okay, but it’s not enough. We have to be broken before Him and focused on our purpose.

Bill Gaither and his team had prepared for their performance. They had written the music, rehearsed it and done all they could do to honor the Lord with their talents. It was their time in real prayer that brought a freshness to that’s night’s performance and a new closeness to each other.

Wesley Duewel

Dr. Duewel, missionary to India for nearly twenty-five years and the author of numerous books on prayer and missions, states:

Your prayer for world harvest can be more effective today because God in His sovereignty is coordinating world trends to make rapid fruitfulness available to His children. If we will put priority on prayer and obedience, this can be earth’s greatest harvest time. Not every Christian is called to go. Not every Christian is able to make a substantial financial contribution to the work of Christ’s kingdom. But there is no limit to what any Christian may accomplish through prayer!

Oswald Chambers

Consider, with Oswald Chambers, the importance that Christ places on prayer.

It is Christ . . . who also maketh intercession for us . . . . The Spirit . . . maketh intercession for the saints. Romans 8:34, 27. Do we need any more argument than this to become intercessors— that Christ “ever liveth to make intercession”; that the Holy Spirit “maketh intercession for the saints”? Are we living in such vital relationship to our fellow men that we do the work of intercession as the Spirit-taught children of God?

John Bunyan

Both John Bunyan and A. J. Gordon have been credited with saying, “You can do more than pray after you have prayed, but you cannot do more than pray until you have prayed.”

The Apostle Paul

 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus”.Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (Philippians 4:6-7; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

God is the only One who can accomplish what is really needed. The best thing you can do is pray.

© Stephanie B. Blake

February 2015

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Headline News

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in this Bob Satterfield cartoon, the everyman reads a week’s worth of newspapers with sensationalistic headlines about the risk of an upcoming war between Russia and Japan… finishing with headlines about how peaceful arbitration is inevitable. Jan 11, 1904

If I’m not careful, my day can start out pretty depressing. That is because I watch a lot of news. First thing in the morning, I check to see what has happened around the world. I watch news on television and read it online. Usually headline news is bad news – terror attacks, earthquakes, hurricanes, airplane crashes, wars on several fronts – just to name a few.

I have friends all over the world, so I believe catching up on news is necessary. Sometimes, however, I want to turn it all off and not hear any more bad news. Bad news is like the cold, damp, dark days of winter. I find myself searching through the clouds for a glimpse of sunshine. I am eager for good news.

Occasionally, a friend will email or call me with good news and when that happens, it is like a breath of fresh air. I often think when I hear good news, “I needed that.”

I remind myself that I have a constant source of good news. I also read it daily. It is God’s word.

The good news of scripture is that God knows, God cares and God provides whatever we need for whatever comes our way.

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Each year in February, the sun’s angle is such that Horsetail Falls waterfall lights up like fire. Yosemite N.P., USA

God’s headline news is the gospel – good news. It is just what we need. Jesus is the living breath of fresh air – the ray of sunshine we need. Trust in Him and all is made right. Sins are forgiven. Life has a purpose. Problems are measured not by difficulty, but by God’s glory.

How lovely on the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who announces peace and brings good news of happiness, who announces salvation, and says to Zion, “Your God reigns!” (Isaiah 52:7 NASB).

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn, to console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified” (Isaiah 61:1-3 NKJV).

Advice from Warren Buffett

Known as the most successful investor of the 20th century, Warren Buffett recently said:

USCurrency_Federal_Reserve“With a wonderful business, you can figure out what will happen; you can’t figure out when it will happen. You don’t want to focus on when, you want to focus on what. If you’re right about what, you don’t have to worry about when.”

Mr. Buffett does his research when he is considering an investment opportunity. He said, “Risk comes from not knowing what you’re doing.”

Although extraordinarily wealthy, he has a realistic view concerning money. “Money will not change how healthy you are or how many people love you.”

“Don’t risk what is important to you, to get what is not important to you.” Warren Buffett shares his wealth freely and launched the Giving Pledge which encourages the world’s richest people to share at least half their wealth with charity while they are still living.

Raised as a Presbyterian, Mr. Buffett says he is now an agnostic. He may not realize, however, that his words of advice can apply to one’s relationship with God.

  • “If you’re right about what, you don’t have to worry about when.” As hard as it is, I try to leave the “when” to God because He is the One with an eternal perspective. I trust Him to do what is right in His perfect timing.
  • “Risk comes from not knowing what you are doing.” The biggest risk in life is doing things without God’s guidance. I don’t always know what to do, but God does and He promises to direct my steps.
  • “Money will not change how healthy you are or how many people love you.” That is true. Riches are uncertain. God’s love is not. Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on thjesus_nails_1e uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy (1 Timothy 6:17).
  • “Don’t risk what is important to you, to get what is not important to you.” Every earthly life comes to an end. What should be important is what will last for eternity.

It is hard not to admire Warren Buffett for his investment insight and philanthropy, but I do not envy him. I pray that this smart and generous man will receive Christ into his life.

I don’t know when I will die, but I do know what will happen. I will meet Jesus face to face because I know Him who invested His life for mine. The riches He gives will last forever.

“For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?”  (Mark 8:36-37).

Jesus, David and the Psalms

Many men of God knew and loved God long before He appeared in flesh. Perhaps one of the best known was David. It is possible that his psalms are the most familiar passages of the Bible – memorized for their beauty and comfort. It is easy for us to look back among the psalms of David and see Jesus in them. What special revelations of the Savior God gave to this man after His own heart.

Jesus, God’s Only Begotten Son

… The Lord has said to Me, You are My Son, Today I have begotten You (Psalm 2:7).

And the Holy Spirit descended in bodily form like a dove upon Him, and a voice came from heaven which said, “You are My beloved Son; in You I am well pleased” (Luke 3:22).

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16).

Jesus, the Judge

But the Lord shall endure forever. He has prepared His throne for judgment (Psalm 9:7).

For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son (John 5:22).

Jesus, the Crucified One

“My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”…They gape at Me with their mouths…I am poured out like water, and all My bones are out of joint…They pierced My hands and My feet; I can count all My bones, they look and stare at Me. They divide My garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots (Psalm 22:1, 13, 14, 16, 17, 18).

Then they crucified Him, and divided His garments, casting lots, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet: “They divided My garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots.”…. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:35, 46).

Jesus, the Resurrection

… Nor will You allow Your Holy One to undergo decay (Psalm 16:10 NASB).

…”The Lord is risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!”…And He said to them, “Why are you troubled? And why do doubts arise in your hearts? Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have” (Luke 24:34, 38-39).

Jesus, the Light of the World

The Lord is my light and salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? (Psalm 27:1).

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light that all through him might believe… Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life” (John 1:6-7, 12).

Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell My Brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see Me” (Matthew 28:10).

Jesus, the only Savior

Many times David refers to God as his salvation. After he was confronted by Nathan with his sin, David pleads with the Lord, Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and uphold me by Your generous Spirit (Psalm 51:12).

Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12).

Jesus. the Ruler

Yes, all kings shall fall down before Him; all nations shall serve Him (Psalm 72:11).

The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool…. The Lord has sworn and will not relent, “You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” The Lord is at Your right hand; He shall execute kings in the day of His wrath. He shall judge among the nations…. (Psalm 110:1, 4-6).

Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True…He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God…And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS (Revelation 19:11,13,16).

Jesus, the Creator and Descendant of David.

“I am the Root and Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star” (Revelation 22:16).

God’s Voice in the Psalms

Many a backslidden believer has found restoration in the psalms. Many a confused believer has found guidance in the psalms. Many a frightened believer has found strength in the psalms. Many a troubled soul has found comfort in the psalms. Many have discovered the love of God in the psalms. Many a weakened Christian soldier has found victory in the psalms. Many a lost person has found salvation in Jesus in the psalms.

We have all benefited from God’s special relationship with David.

© Stephanie B. Blake

January 2015

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Seeing the Heart of Christmas

baby-jesus-christmas-nativity-wallpapers-1024x768God had demonstrated His love and His presence to His people for centuries, but many of them did not see it. So…the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14).

The highly favored woman and the just man saw Him first. God prepared Mary to give Him birth. He prepared Joseph to see Him come into the world. They knew why He had come. Angels told them why.

The simple men saw Him. The shepherds came to see the Child. Angels told them where to go and why He had come.800px-Krippenmuseum_Oberstadion_Krippe_aus_Aachen_c1850_06

The wise men saw Him. The star led them to Him. They had been told to visit the King of the Jews and they came to worship Him. The gifts they gave may have enabled Mary and Joseph to take care of the Christ Child as they were gifts of great worth. They were also symbolic. Gold was given to royalty. Frankincense was an incense offered in worship. Myrrh was an anointing or embalming oil. The wise men saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him.

Simeon and Anna had been waiting for Him, assured that God would allow them to see Him with their own eyes. And He did. When they saw Him, they prophesied about Him.

When you see the Child in the manger, you are looking at the heart of God.

What a privilege it must have been for these few to have seen the Child and known who He was from the very beginning!

I was not there at His birth and neither were you. Even so, we can see the heart of Christmas – God’s love.

But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone (Hebrews 2:9).

He who has seen Me has seen the Father (John 14:9). For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily (Colossians 2:9). In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God…No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him (John 1:1,2,18).

Gift Giving

This close to Christmas nearly everyone is thinking about what gifts they are going to be purchasing, wrapping, mailing or placing under the Christmas tree for loved ones. It is the season of concentrated gift giving.

Much thought is often put into the gifts you purchase. In fact, while I was typing this sentence, the doorbell rang. It was the delivery of a Christmas gift I had ordered online for my husband. I hope he likes it.

???????????????????????????????We love to give gifts on Christmas, but we also will be receiving gifts. As DSC04112recipients. we have a choice to make. We may use it or place it in the back of a closet. We are not obligated to use it, but whoever has given us the gift hopes that we will use it and like it. If you love the person who gave it to you, you know they spent some time thinking about what gift would suit you. Using the gift makes a statement to the giver – that you value and appreciate the gift you have been given.

As Christians, the most important gift we have been given is the gift of salvation. It was given to us by the Christ who chose to be born in a manger, lived a perfect life, died a sacrificial death and rose from His grave. For those of us who have accepted that gift, He is preparing a place for us to be with Him for all eternity.

God’s Holy Spirit also gives you gifts for service. They are tailor made for you. He is pleased and glorified when you give Him thanks for those gifts and use them for His service. You can ignore your spiritual gift and neglect the good work God has begun in you, but it can insult God, grieve Him and become sin to you.

Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness (Romans 12:6-8).

And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption (Ephesians 4:30). Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin (James 4:17).