“HE COULD COME AT ANY TIME NOW”

It was by far the most beautiful Saturday morning in NE Ohio since last summer, which seemed light-years away due to our exceptionally harsh winter. We were enjoying a cloudless sky and temperatures in the los 70s when our son Adriel dropped the kids off to spend a few hours with us. Eight-year-old Jehiel and Milos, 6, were busy with Lolo George: fishing, painting dart boards and helping straighten up the garage. They were having so much fun that they almost forgot about playing games on the tablet, their favorite inside activity. Two-year old Kayra was “helping” me make hamburger buns in the kitchen. A little clump of dough – and way too much flour – kept her occupied at the counter while I got my work done. Then we headed out for a bike ride around the lake. She giggled and squealed with delight while watching the geese.

As we were finishing lunch, Jehiel presented his plan: “Now I can go fishing, help Lolo George some more, then play with the tablet…” We reminded him that time was short and Daddy would be coming to pick them up real soon. Convinced that he still had plenty of time, I again reminded him, “But you don’t know when Daddy’s coming. He could be here any time now.”

That reminded me of what I read just hours earlier. Jesus told his followers: “Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming.” (Matthew 24:42). He will come in the context of normal, everyday, heavily scheduled, busy days.

Aren’t we all a bit like Jehiel? Don’t we get so involved in our plans and wrapped up in our activities that we forget the reality that Jesus might come at any time?  Jesus summed up the teaching about His return like this: “Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” (Matthew 24:44)

As we go about our busy days, let’s be ready and remember this: He could come at any time now!

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WORSHIP ACROSTIC

The story of the “wise men from the East” is intriguing. Matthew tells us in his gospel that these men made an effort to see the King who was born. They spent time and money to make the trip and take gifts to honor Him. It was a big deal for them! When they saw the young child, they fell down and worshiped Him. I wonder why.

The wise men didn’t have half the reason to worship Jesus that we do. They were pre-Christ’s death and resurrection, and didn’t know Him as their Savior and Lord. They didn’t experience His forgiveness, His grace and salvation. They didn’t have His promises to cling to. He didn’t promise them that He would be with them every day till the end of the world, or that He would come back to take them to live forever with Him.

But they worshiped Him. They fell down and worshiped Him.

As we approach Christmas Day, let’s worship Jesus as King, just as the wise men did. Then let’s worship Him for a myriad of other reasons that we have, especially because He is our Savior!

W            “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, And strength and honor and glory and blessing!” (Revelation 5:12)

O             “Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord our Maker. For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand.”  (Psalm 95:6,7)

R             “Remember His marvelous works which He has done, His wonders, and the judgments of His mouth…” (1st Chronicles 16:12)

S              “Sing to the Lord, for He has done excellent things…” (Isaiah 12:5)

H             “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, Who was and is and is to come!” (Revelation 4:8)

I               “ I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen.” (Rev. 1:18)

P             “Praise the Lord! Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.” (Psalm 106:1)

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The Elf on the Shelf, the Mensch on the Bench or the Light in the Night

For a long, long time, Santa had to patrol the world alone to find the “naughty or nice” kids. Then he hired an Elf on the Shelf. Now Santa’s helper, the Elf on the Shelf, fulfills that mission, according to the “About us” page of  www.elfontheshelf.com.

The Mensch on the Bench brings Holiday fun to Jewish children. Who is the Mensch on the Bench? His creator, Neal Hoffman, states in The Jerusalem Post that he is “A Jewish version of the wildly popular Elf on the Shelf toy; the doll and book set retells the Hanukkah story and explains what it means to be a “mensch”, a Yiddish word meaning person of honor” (www.jpost.com)

While the Elf on the Shelf and the Mensch on the Bench are light-hearted fun, they shouldn’t steal the show. The most important figure of the Holiday Season is the Light in the Night. Hundreds of years prior to Christ’s birth, the prophet Isaiah wrote about Him, saying, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined.” (Isaiah 9:2) Dispelling any doubt about who Isaiah was referring to, Jesus Himself declared in John 8:12: “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness but have the light of life.”

In January, the Elf on the Shelf will be packed away in the attic, and the Mensch on the Bench will be carefully wrapped and stored with all the Holiday decorations. Without the Light in the Night, those who live in darkness will still be in darkness; the fearful and the lonely will not have changed. Those who suffer bondage and despair will not see a way out. But there is a way out! There is life and hope in Jesus, the Light in the Night.

We can live without the Elf on the Shelf, and we can lead a normal life never having a Mensch on the Bench; but we cannot live without the Light in the Night – Jesus! And that is the reason why He is the central figure of the Holiday Season!

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TRUE BEAUTY

It’s interesting to note that in the well-known description of “The Virtuous Wife” in Proverbs 31:10-29, no mention is made of the wife’s physical beauty. She is praised for her admirable character traits. Reading them, we are only left to guess what she looked like. Maybe she was borderline homely or she could have been normal. But then, she might have been a good candidate for “Miss Universe”. We don’t know.

The summary of her real beauty is given in Proverbs 31:30: “Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.” Her true beauty was on the inside.

If we have any outer beauty, it’s passing. We see wrinkles and sags staring back at us in the mirror. Our hair thins and our waistline doesn’t. Don’t count on outward beauty! On the other hand, like The Virtuous Wife of Proverbs 31, we may or may not be beautiful on the outside. Fortunately, like her, we can cultivate inner beauty. Let’s be diligent to work on our inner beauty: on Loving God and others, and obeying His word. That’s the true beauty that will never, ever pass away!

Prayer: Lord, Even though our world puts undue emphasis on outer beauty, help us cultivate that true beauty that comes from loving You and loving others. Amen!

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THE SHIELD – TRUST CONNECTION

Every word of God is pure; He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him.” Proverbs 30:5

The word “shield” in the Bible refers to god’s protection. Besides Agur, the author of Proverbs 30, other Biblical authors related the words “shield” and “trust.” Let’s look at only two examples.

Psalm 18:30: “The word of the Lord is proven; He is a shield to all who trust in Him.” – King David

Psalm 115:11: “You who fear the Lord, trust in the Lord; He is their help and their shield.” – Anonymous Psalmist

Centuries later, the Apostle Paul reminded us of the importance of using our shield of faith to conquer our enemy, Satan. Let’s hold tightly to God’s word and trust in it, thanking Him that His shield protects us!

Prayer: Lord, We are so thankful because You are our protecting shield. Help us to trust Your word and know the safety of Your protection. Amen!

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E B B O M

Acronyms are an excellent way to remember important things. Because I often need to be reminded of a certain great truth, I was especially drawn to one I came across recently. In fact, I even set it as my screen-saver on my computer at work. That acronym is E B B O M, and it stands for:

Engage
Brain
Before
Opening
Mouth

The advice given in that short acronym describes a wise man that king Solomon wrote about.“A fool vents all his feelings but a wise man holds them back.” Proverbs 29:11. E B B O M is good advice that will keep us out of unwanted trouble. Next time we’re tempted to vent all our feelings or maybe are on the brink of giving someone a piece of our mind, let’s err on the side of safety. Let’s remember E B B O M!

Prayer: Father, You made us and know how prone we all are to vent all our feelings. Remind us E B B O M and give us wisdom to hold back. Amen!

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TRUSTING MAN VS. TRUSTING GOD

“He who trusts in the Lord will be prospered…He who trusts in his own heart is a fool.” Proverbs 28:25,26

It’s interesting to note that the contrast between trusting God vs. trusting man is repeated in the Bible by several writers. In very different circumstances and times, we see the following:

The Psalmist David wrote in Psalm 20:7,8: “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; But we will remember the name of the LORD our God. They have bowed down and fallen; But we have risen and stand upright.”

An anonymous author of Psalm 118:8 wrote: “It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man.”

The prophet Isaiah wrote of the plight of those who trust in man instead of the Lord in Isaiah 31:1-3, summing it up this way in verse 3: “Both he who helps will fall, and he who is helped will fall down…

In Jeremiah 17:5 and 7, the prophet penned: “Thus says the LORD: ‘Cursed is the man who trusts in man Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, and whose hope is the LORD…’”

We understand the truth: trusting in our own selves or in others is foolish. Trusting God is always the best option. Let’s trust only in Him!

Prayer: Lord, we thank you for being trustworthy, and know that trusting you is always the best plan. Let our trust be in you 100%. Amen!

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WE DON’T OWN TOMORROW

Boasting about future plans is never good. Ask Peter. He boldly declared to Jesus: “I’ll even die for You, but I won’t deny You.” (Read Matthew 26:31-35) We recall the sad reality. He did deny Christ, and his boasting is a solemn reminder to all of us to not be so sure of what we’ll do and what we’ll not do in the future.

King Solomon wrote: “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth.” (Proverbs 27:1) Ask the person who has experienced a tragedy. Ask the one who just received an unwanted, perhaps unexpected diagnosis. Ask anyone who suffered a sudden loss. They would all agree with James, the half-brother of Jesus, who wrote: “I have a word for you who brashly announce, “Today—at the latest, tomorrow—we’re off to such and such a city for the year. We’re going to start a business and make a lot of money. You don’t know the first thing about tomorrow. You’re nothing but a wisp of fog, catching a brief bit of sun before disappearing. Instead, make it a habit to say, “If the Master wills it and we’re still alive, we’ll do this or that. As it is, you are full of your grandiose selves. All such vaunting self-importance is evil.” (The Message)

The message is clear. Let’s not arrogantly think we own tomorrow, because we don’t. Trusting God for all of our tomorrows is the best plan!

Prayer: Father, Thank You because You reminded us again that our future is in Your hands, and help us to never live as though we own tomorrow.

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NO WOOD, NO FIRE

Throughout our growing-up years, we faithfully attended church camp at Camp Caesar in Webster Springs, West Virginia. It was the highlight of the year for all of us. (How many of you remember and agree?) There was something special about the nightly campfires in the old Counsel Circle. The roaring fire; singing old hymns together, hearing great testimonies and special singing groups are all part of those “Precious Memories.” (I think I hear an “Amen!”)

Going back to the Counsel Circle the next morning, the scene was very different. Light would be streaming through the open roof; the fire that raged a few hours earlier would be reduced to a pile of cold – sometimes smoldering – ashes. Because no wood was ever added to the fire during the night, it always went out.

That reminds me of Proverbs 26:20: “Where there is no wood, the fire goes out; and where there is no talebearer, strife ceases.” As long as we are talebearing (gossiping) we are piling wood on the roaring fire. Our gossip causes problems, conflicts and destruction. The scene changes when we choose to hold our tongue and button our lip. The fire dies out and light streams in. Let’s remember this: no wood, no fire.

Prayer: Lord, give us wisdom and self control to keep our comments to ourselves and not engage in destructive gossip. Remind us often: no wood, no fire. Amen!

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ONLY AS MUCH AS YOU NEED

Have you found honey? Eat only as much as you need, lest you be filled with it and vomit.” Proverbs 25:16

Though the health benefits of honey are not scientifically confirmed, there are reports of its antiseptic and antibacterial properties. It is used in chronic wound management, as a remedy for acid reflux, infantile gastroenteritis, fighting infections, allergies, cough and other physical maladies.

Although it is beneficial and a yummy sweetener, King Solomon’s wise advice regarding honey is this: “eat only as much as you need.” That is the principle of moderation. What would happen if we would apply that same principle to other good things?

Work? Moderation

Money? Moderation

Eating? Moderation

Sleep? Moderation

Hobbies? Moderation.

Each of us could customize the list. All good things can bring unwanted consequences if used or practiced in excess. It doesn’t take a governmental study to realize the importance of moderation and the danger of excess. Whatever good things we enjoy in life, let’s apply the Biblical principle of moderation: “only as much as you need!”

Prayer: Lord, it’s so easy to be excessive. Please help us to consciously apply self-control and moderation in every area of our lives. Amen!

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