Monday, December 10, 2018

Sing, For the Savior Has Come

And suddenly there was with
the angel a multitude of the
Heavenly host praising God,
and saying, Glory to God in
the highest, and on earth
peace, good will toward men.
                 Luke 2:13-14 KJV

Christmas is a time for singing. The Savior has come!
The First Noel the Angel Did Say
Angels We Have Heard on High
Joy to the World! The Lord is Come
O Come, All Ye Faithful
There’s a Song in the Air
Hail, Thou Long-expected Jesus
It Came Upon a Midnight Clear
Silent Night, Holy Night
Good Christian Men, Rejoice
O Little Town of Bethlehem
Angels, from the Realms of Glory
Away in a Manger
I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks
Hark! The Herald Angels Sing 

     Be blessed today by remembering the songs of the Christmas season. They sing of a Savior who is born, Christ the King! Let your heart rejoice as you remember the Redeemer! He came to rescue, ransom and redeem! He is Prince of Peace, Lord of Lords, and King of Kings. Today let us sing it in our homes, on our streets, in our churches and around the world. The Savior has come! His name is JESUS!

© Joyce Powell

Monday, December 3, 2018

The Beginning of Christmas

Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in
this way, “When his mother Mary had been
betrothed to Joseph, before they came
together she was found to be with child
from the Holy Spirit.”
                                Matthew 1:18 ESV 

According to the custom of the day, Mary and Joseph were betrothed. A legally binding contract had been signed and could be broken only by death or divorce. Although considered married, physical intimacy during this portion of a relationship was considered adultery, and the penalty for adultery—death!

The genealogy listed in Matthew 1:1-17 reveals Jesus’ legal claim to the throne of David. Jesus Messiah would be born of a virgin and raised by an earthly father whose heritage included patriarchs, a prostitute (Rahab) and a King (David).

I cannot imagine the emotional roller coaster of this young girl; from the excitement of betrothal to the unbelievable pregnancy without hope that anyone would believe she had committed no sin. The stares, whispers, and judgment of others who did not know the truth would follow her as she walked through the crowds. Yet chosen by God, she faced her future knowing that this child growing inside of her was a gift of love from Yahweh, Jehovah, I AM.

As I read these words, written centuries ago, I am reminded of how often we look at another’s situation and make a mental judgment without full knowledge of the truth of their circumstances. And I wonder how much pain we cause others with our less than friendly hello and our fake fellowship.

It is Christmastime! What better gift could we give our Lord than to love one another with the same kind of love bestowed upon us by our Heavenly Father? I can think of no better way to celebrate Christmas than to spread the love of God throughout our homes, our families, our churches and our communities.

Today would be a good day to lay aside judgment without knowledge and really begin to love the unlovable people in our lives. It is the beginning of Christmas: “For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:11 ESV)

©Joyce Powell

Thursday, November 29, 2018

The True Gift of Christmas

For God so loved the world that He gave…
                                           John 3:16  KJV  

     The long-awaited day of both children and child-like hearts seems out of reach for eleven months of the year. Then, almost without warning, it has come and gone!
     Wrapping paper covers the floor like plush thick carpet. Ribbons and bows capture the toes of those brave enough to walk barefoot through their colorful curled trappings while the evidence of too much or for some— too little, leaves behind either dreams fulfilled or longings for that one desired gift.

     But the true gift of Christmas will never disappoint or leave you searching for something more. The true gift of Christmas is God’s bountiful grace, announced to the shepherds, displayed in a manger and eventually delivered to the cross. The true gift of Christmas came down from heaven in the supreme act of love.

     The true gift of Christmas is Light in a dark world. Hope for the hopeless! Healing for the afflicted! Joy for the broken hearted! Peace in the midst of turmoil! Abundance rather than lack! Forgiveness exchanged for unforgiveness! Rescue from a storm-tossed life! Encouragement for the down and out and for the up and out!

     The true gift of Christmas is grace—God’s abundant, over-flowing, never-ending, always available grace. Don’t miss it! Grace is available today! For you! Now! It is grace for living and grace for dying. It is grace for the sunny days and the dark, cloudy, storm-filled days. The true gift of Christmas—For God so loved the world that He gave more than we needed, before we realized we needed it and long after we thought the need had passed.

     The true gift of Christmas—Jesus came to live in the human heart. Open yours! Let Him in! 

© Joyce Powell

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Give Thanks

Enter His gates with thanksgiving
and His courts with praise!
Give thanks to Him; bless His name!
                         Psalm 100:4 NIV

Thanksgiving; a holiday beckoning images of family gatherings, turkey and dressing, giggling children, and football while Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade captures the attention of millions of Americans as final meal preparations wind down.

Like many of our national holidays, I’m afraid our day of Thanksgiving has been turned into big business. For retailers, Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the Christmas shopping season. For consumers, Thanksgiving marks the beginning of lists made for purchasing the objects of our affection; clothes, electronics, toys.

Many of us will bow our heads at the dinner table and thank God for His wonderful bounty and the good things received over the past year. Many will gather around the table with an empty chair that was occupied by a loved one in previous years. Many will celebrate with a meager meal rather than the abundance of years gone by. Others are homeless and will have nothing with which to celebrate on this day of feasting.

These are difficult times in our nation. But God remains seated on His throne and in control, and His grace still reaches out to the lost of our world. The grace of God is not made ineffective during hard times but rather the very thing to which we can cling for assurance and love and hope.

This Thanksgiving I pray that I and my brothers and sisters in Christ will bow our hearts as we speak of the excellence of our Heavenly Father and focus on the goodness of God. As we thank Him for His bountiful blessings, let us remember that “In Him we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:28 ESV)

This Thanksgiving I give thanks to our Holy God for His Son Jesus who redeemed me from my sin as He sacrificed His life for mine. Grace—no greater gift has ever been given or received. Thank God!

© Joyce Powell

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Sacrificial Hope

But, I with a song of thanksgiving,
 will sacrifice to you.
What I have vowed
 I will make good.
Salvation comes from the LORD.

Jonah 2:9 

Most of us are familiar with the story of “Jonah and the Whale.” As children, many of us learned that Jonah disobeyed God, jumped on a boat going in the opposite direction from the city where God commanded Jonah to preach, and was thrown overboard to save the ship from a violent storm.  Then a great fish swallowed him and, after his fervent prayer to God for relief, it vomited Jonah onto dry ground.

The prophet, unwilling to fulfill the seemingly offensive mission from God, chose to run rather than obey. Ultimately, however, Jonah realized that God’s way was the only way and, although he remained reluctant, he obeyed God. The people of Nineveh believed and were saved, but Jonah pouted and sulked in anger; complaining to God. He became so angry that he wanted to die.  (Jonah 4:9) Jonah hated the powerful and wicked Assyrians of Nineveh.

But God, in His great mercy, saved both the Ninevites and Jonah from their own destructive choices. Initially, Jonah was unwilling to sacrifice his desires to fulfill the calling of God on his life. But, he was willing to sacrifice his life to save the sailors on the ship he chose to board while fleeing from God. His behavior seems to be a conundrum, mind-boggling, a puzzle.

As I thought about the complexity of Jonah’s actions, I realized that you and I face similar dilemmas. For example, your heart’s desire, your hope in life, may be to minister to the hurting in your community or nearby city. However, what if God’s answer is yes to allowing you to minister to the hurting, but His call on your life is to the inner city of Mumbai, India where the population is over twelve million. Are you willing to make the sacrifice? What if your ministry desire lies across the nation but instead, God calls you across town? What if you desire to do “great things” for God by the world’s standards, yet He calls you to a ministry of obscurity where few ever know your name? Are you willing to make that sacrifice as you hope in Him?

The twists and turns of life often lead you to unexpected places, often put you in unexpected situations, and often leave you with unexpected decisions to make. But as my favorite Psalm teaches, there is no place you can run, hide, or rest that God cannot find you. (Psalm 139) The question becomes are you, am I, willing to live with sacrificial hope; hope that seeks obedience to God rather than hope that seeks the fulfillment of a personal desire.

Sacrificial hope draws you and me to look expectantly for God’s direction. Sacrificial hope presents a grateful heart to God for the ability to present the Truth of God’s Word to the hungry broken heart of a desperate lost soul. Sacrificial hope allows earthly eyes to see beyond the natural realm. Sacrificial hope is not confined to the mighty in word and deed, but rather becomes a powerful tool for God’s Kingdom in the hearts of struggling single moms, those bed-ridden by illness, dads working two or three jobs, young college graduates looking for work, grandparents raising their grandchildren, soldiers on the battlefield, surgeons in the operating room, and a myriad of other life situations.

Sacrificial hope means believing and obeying God. I am glad God included Jonah’s story in His Word to you and me. It is in God’s Word that we are allowed to see the imperfections, rocky beginnings, and sometimes shaky endings of those who first believed God; human beings like you and like me. God’s Word teaches us to repent, obey, and believe Him. From the darkness inside the belly of a great fish, Jonah cried out to God with his words of sacrificial hope, “But I, with a song of thanksgiving, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. Salvation comes from the LORD.”

Pray with me: Father, I pray that like the Ninevites who were saved because Jonah preached and they repented, many will come to know You because of my sacrificial hope in You.

© Joyce Powell
from "Words of Hope"

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Beyond My Imagination

But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen,
nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined,
what God has prepared for those who love
him”—these things God has revealed to us
through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches
everything, even the depths of God.
                             1 Corinthians 2:9-10 

Several years ago friends, a female trio, asked me to write a song about what we would see in heaven. I agreed—under one condition. I asked each of them to write down and mail to me their expectations of heaven. With the promise that they would not share with the others but with me alone, I began receiving their letters.

I read, I smiled, I wept, and I wrote Glimpses of Home. Although these young women spent a lot of time together and each loved the Lord, as evidenced by the way they lived their lives, their views of heaven and what they were looking forward to seeing were individual and exciting expectations.

Why—because the heart of man cannot imagine the splendor and wonder our Heavenly Father has prepared for us. It is beyond our earthly comprehension. Heaven is beyond our imagination!

As a young Christian, I looked forward to streets of gold, gates of pearl and walls of jasper. Now, I just want to sit at the feet of Jesus, to lay my crown of righteousness before the throne of God, to sing with the redeemed in perfect harmony—I am redeemed by love divine glory glory Christ is mine! I want to worship God!

Ecclesiastes 3:11 confirms that God has planted eternity in the hearts of man. We have a longing to see Him. We know there is more than what our earthly life offers. As His children, we anxiously await our reunion in heaven. Occasionally, as when my mother was dying, God gives us glimpses of home by allowing our loved ones to speak aloud what they are seeing. But it seems that it is always just enough to intensify our longing to see for ourselves.

Some day God will call each of us into eternity, and we will see with our eyes what our hearts and minds have only imagined. I know one thing for sure! Heaven is “bright and clear.” The rest is beyond my imagination.  

©Joyce Powell

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

God's Perfect Timing

“In his heart a man plans his course,
but the LORD determines his steps.”
Proverbs 16:9

A few years ago, as I visited with a friend who appeared to be losing her five-year battle with cancer, we sat and discussed the things of God and how we had seen Him work throughout each of our lives. One of the things we talked about, the intricacies of God’s perfect timing, caused us to remember some of the good results from circumstances in each of our lives when our hearts feared that no good thing could come. We wondered if anything good could possibly come from Janet’s five years of suffering.

During our conversation, she asked me to read the day’s selection from the devotional book, Streams in the Desert. As I opened the book to November 17, the first sentence jumped off the page. “God’s timing is not ours to command.” The lump in my throat blocked these words of Charles H. Spurgeon. Finally, and with tears streaming down my cheeks, I read aloud. Like me, Janet swallowed hard realizing that what was written over a century before was in God’s perfect timing for the two of us on that specific day.

The steps the LORD determined for Janet were not the life-plans she had made. Her plans included health and long life, watching grandchildren grow and enjoying the love of her family for many years. God chose a different plan. A few days after our visit, Janet left her earth-bound body and arrived on the shores of heaven—pain free.

What about you? Has God interrupted your life with His plans—His timing? Are you confused or disheartened? Are you wondering what good can come from your circumstances?

I do not have the answers to all of our questions, but I do know that God’s plans are not to harm His child but to give hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11) My plans for living include a long life on this earth. If that does not happen, like my friend Janet, my hope and future is in my heavenly home with my Father. Either way, I am secure in knowing that God has determined my steps.

John 3:16 is the foundation stone of my faith. Hopefully, you too are secure in the knowledge that “For God so loved the world…" includes you. Believe and trust in God’s perfect timing.

© Joyce Powell