Friday, December 19, 2008

HE SAID, SHE SAID -- December 19, 2008

JOSEPH THE DREAMER --He Said
By: Eddie Jones
Joseph The Dreamer -- He Said, Eddie Jones


"An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. ‘Get up,’ he said, ‘take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.’” Matthew 2:13

Dreams are the lifeblood of ideas. Before the world began, before there was man and woman and matching his and hers bath towels with monogrammed initials God dreamed of world filled with creatures made in His image.

For some, for the lucky few who see the world in Technicolor rather than shades of gray, God still dispenses dreams. Not the cheap, plastic disposable dreams thrust upon us by the marketing types on Madison Avenue, but the rich and raw and utterly terrifying dreams of the unbridled imagination.

What if the world is not flat? What if man could fly to the moon? What if the dead do not stay dead?

As I read the Christmas story anew I’m struck by the number of dreams God gave to the characters in His story. The Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, assuring him that all would be well. And it was. The Magi, having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, went home by another way and lived to boast of the new king they’d found. An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and told him to take his boy to Egypt and later an angel appeared telling him it was okay to return home. Before he reached Judah, however, he was warned in another dream to settle in Nazareth.

God is in the dream business. In fact, it seems that sometimes he does his greatest works through dreams. His dreams are found in Old Testament stories where men of faith built boats in the desert, fathered children in barren wombs and climbed ladders to heaven. We can find God’s dreams within the pages of the New Testament in the letters of saints like Paul, Peter, Stephen, James and John, who gave their lives because of the visions they received from God.

What if this Christmas God gave you a dream instead of a toy fire truck, pair of socks or flat screen TV? What if he gave you a really big, blow you into the fifth dimension dream? Would you shun the dream and wish for cash instead? Would you scoff at the vision?

If Jesus came back on his birthday and asked you to give an account of the dreams you’ve been given would his audit bring visions of sugar plums dancing in your head or the terrifying nightmares of misspent days squandered on the tawdry and cheap daydreams we pass off as the good life?

This Christmas ask God to place His dreams in your heart. He’s in the business of big ideas. And nothing we imagine can come anywhere close to what He has in store for us.


SWEET DREAMS -- SHE SAID

By Cindy Sproles



Sweet Dreams! by Cindy Sproles


When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. "Get up," he said, "take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him." Matthew 2: 13

The phone rang several times. Startled, I sat up straight in the bed. The room was pitch black, and all I could imagine was something must be wrong. I glanced at the clock, 1:10 a.m. March 6, 1997. Groggy and incoherent from sleep I grabbed at the portable. “Hello.” My heart raced as I waited for what had to be bad news. “Hello!”

“I’m fine. It’s time you rested,” a crackled voice squeezed through the static on the line.

“Dad?”

A click on line and then nothing. I stood staring at the phone thinking, this is impossible. Dad died a year ago. I’m having a really weird dream. I climbed back in bed and eyed the clock again. March 6, 1997, 1:10 a.m.—one year to the day and time when dad left this earth.

When I woke the next morning, I was clutching the phone in my hand. Dreams are not always joyful. Sometimes, as in my case, they offer us an opportunity to grasp hold of acceptance and move forward. Other times they move us to understanding a situation we may face. Our dreams are our mind’s way of working us through the realizations of life.

Joseph had a few of those dreams—four in fact. The first, a calming dream telling him Mary carried the Son of God. What a way to find out you’re about to be a step-father. But imagine being woken from a deep sleep and told to get up right that minute and flee for your life, someone was trying to kill your child.

I often think we give Joseph too little credit. The focus lends itself to a virgin birth and the gift of eternal life she bore. But Joseph, a noble man, with noble intentions, who’s sleep was interrupted more times than not with bad dreams, saved the life of Christ three times. When he took on the responsibility of fathering the son of God — his dreams were not restful. They were filled with worry, concern and warnings, and Joseph obeyed, protecting the ready-made family he had not asked for.

I imagine Joseph cradled the baby, kissed his forehead and tucked him safely in his bed. Perhaps he whispered, “I love you.” And before he lay down to sleep himself, he might have said, “Sweet dreams,” knowing his own would never be sweet again.

This Christmas as you tuck your little ones in bed and bid them sweet dreams, remember the sacrifices that were made so that you might have hope.

From the Father listen for these words, “Sweet dreams.”

Eddie Jones and Cindy Sproles
are friends and co-founders of
ChristianDevotions.us. They
co-write the popular He Said, She Said
devotions and host BlogtalkRadio's
Christian Devotions Speak UP! along
with Marianne Jordan.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Merry Christmas from ChristianDevotions.us

video

Birthday Blues -- Andrea Merrell

"For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11 NIV


Over the last decade, I have developed a love/hate relationship with birthdays. A constant reminder that I am getting older, they present another milestone that makes me look back at all the things I have failed to accomplish. They cause me to look a little closer in the mirror, searching for new wrinkles, gray hairs, and age spots.

Birthdays are bittersweet. Along with the unwanted feelings and regrets, they bring lots of smiles, laughter, and time spent with friends and family. Cards, cakes, and gifts always seem to make an appearance. Even e-cards and text messages are welcome surprises. Birthdays are a time to celebrate and recognize the difference one life can make in this world.

Children love parties, ice cream, and all the hoop-la that comes with birthdays, but I’ve noticed when you pass forty, then fifty, and start inching toward the sixty mile marker, you want less fanfare and more time for quiet reflection. You begin to take inventory of your life – what it means – what you’ve done – what you still have left to do. Someone once said, “I love birthdays because the more I have, the longer I live.” A true statement, but maybe we could add, “The longer I live, the more I appreciate the time I have.”

The truth is, age, like everything else, is relative. If we constantly compare ourselves to others or despair over our lost youth, we miss the peace, joy, and fulfillment of living one day at a time, looking forward to the experiences and opportunities God brings our way.

Life is truly a gift. We were given breath because God has a wonderful plan and purpose for each of us. We can take that gift for granted, or embrace it and determine in our heart to become all God created us to be, savoring every moment and living life to the fullest.

With that attitude, we can boldly say, “Birthdays don’t bother me – bring ‘em on!”


Andrea Merrell is a freelance writer with a passion to help others see God’s Word as practical and relevant for ordinary, everyday life. She has written material for ladies’ groups, marriage retreats, skits, websites and brochures, and served as both columnist and editor for Pan Am Bank Notes in Tampa, Florida. She loves Christian fiction and is currently working on three novels, along with countless devotions.
Andrea (a new “grandma” with two more on the way) has been married to her husband and best friend, Charlie, for 37 years and lives in South Carolina.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

We Need a Revival -- Pat Patterson

"I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes…" Romans 1:16


Someone needs to tell these kids. They’re all gonna die…

“Medic-7,” the dispatcher announced. “We’ve got a subject shot!” I grabbed my stethoscope and headed for the ambulance. Colorful images flashed through my mind as I climbed into the passenger seat. The dispatcher continued her voice high and sharp. “A teenaged male shot once in the head. Police officer on the scene requesting Code-3 response. Code-3.”

“10-4,” my partner responded jumping behind the wheel. “Medic-7 en route.”

I tried to calm myself as we hurried to the scene. Relax. You’ve been a medic a good long time. Surely by now you’ve seen it all. But as we pulled onto Hopkins Street and arrived on the scene, I felt my stomach tighten. My palms began to sweat. There’s just something unsettling about a young man with a bullet hole in the side of his head, his life blood spilling out all over the ground and a dangerous crowd pressing in on you demanding you get to work.

There was nothing we could do of course. He was already dead. But for the sake of our own skins and the fact that we were standing on their turf and outnumbered about a hundred to one, we made a good show of it. Loaded him up and moved to the truck assuring the angry crowd we would do our best to save him. Once clear of the scene, however, my partner killed the lights and sirens and slowed down to normal traffic. I stared into the victim’s lifeless eyes trying to guess his age. Eighteen years old, maybe? Nineteen? Oh, Lord, what a waste.

“Duke ER,” I said keying the radio mike. “I’m sorry but we’re bringing you a corpse. Another gang member. There’s nothing we can do.”

*
What in the world is happening out there? It’s like warfare. The gang situation in our cities has never been worse. Drugs, robbery, murder—they’re as common on our streets as rain. And I often find myself angry, craving righteous revenge. After all, those kids are killers. Punks! We should just put ‘em all away and be done with them, right?

Well that might be the thing to do if we had nothing more to offer them, but we do.

This is Christmas. The time we celebrate Jesus—the light of the world. And I can personally attest to that light. If it weren’t for him I would be lost, living in darkness, with no hope for the future and no idea which way to go. But thank God for Jesus Christ, and for the people who cared enough to lead me his way. He saved my life. And if he can do it for me, he can do it for them. So it occurs to me, why don’t we tell them about Jesus too?

Now I realize that gangs are here to stay. I’m not naïve enough to believe they’ll disappear. Shootings will still occur. People will always die. But sending those kids to prison, just locking them away, that won’t solve the problem. And one thing is certain: they will never know the truth if no one tells them. So I think it’s time for a revival. Time to stop talking and start acting. The gospel of Christ is the power of God unto salvation. Are we using it? Are you? Let’s take our streets captive for Jesus. Take the gospel out there and see what God can do.

*
Please join me in praying for a revival in the city where I work. Pray that God will organize a group of people with a burden for the gangs. Pray for power and protection. Pray for opportunity. And pray that when the time comes we might find the courage to risk it all for Christ.

Lord, we need a revival. Every one of these kids is going to die. Send someone to tell them before it’s too late. Send someone soon!



Pat Patterson is a novelist, a paramedic, and an instructor of Emergency Medical Science. His stories are true, based on real experiences from the streets of Durham, North Carolina where he has served as a paramedic since 1992.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Divine Opportunities -- Cathy Bryant

"Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone". ~Colossians 4:5-6
(NIV)



She and I were so different from one another. I was educated; she wasn’t. I was employed; she couldn’t work. I was healthy and whole; she was an invalid. I struggled with the decision to reach out to her. We had so little in common. Or so I thought.

The truth is that we were more alike than I could have ever imagined. Both moms of boys—the love we felt for them fierce and undying. Both women full of questions of how to best survive the daily rat race. Both children of a God who lavishes His grace on us in ways we can’t even begin to comprehend. But the biggest and best lesson was that by reaching out to bless others, I was blessed.

Everyday we are faced with innumerable opportunities to make a difference. Just as God purposely set Peter and John at the temple as a crippled man was being carried to the temple gate, He also places us at different places around the globe, where someone needs a touch from God. It’s so easy for us to view our daily lives as mundane and routine, ordinary and unimportant. But God’s truth is that He uses ordinary circumstances and ordinary people like you and me to bring about extraordinary results.

The challenge for us is that we would see each day, each encounter, as an opportunity and a divine appointment. When we are the hands and feet of Jesus, it often opens the door to becoming His mouthpiece. Who knows what impact we can make for the Kingdom by living our lives with an opportunity-seeking mindset?

My prayer is that as we go about our daily lives, God will help us to seek out the opportunities He gives us to make a difference in the lives of others.


C.J. Bryant lives in a small Texas town with one amazing husband, two spoiled cats, and a garden-full of flowers, hummingbirds and butterflies. Her desire is to turn her God-given abilities and opportunities into an offering back to Him, in order to make Him known. She is currently working on learning more about the craft of writing and is testing her writing wings.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

I Quit!-- Cindy Sproles

I Quit! by Cindy Sproles




Jacob was in love with Rachel and said, "I'll work for you seven years in return for your younger daughter Rachel."… So Jacob served seven years to get Rachel, but they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her…I served you for Rachel, didn't I? Why have you deceived me?"… Finish this daughter's bridal week; then we will give you the younger one also, in return for another seven years of work." And he worked for Laban another seven years.Genesis 29:18, 20, 25 & 30

I’m an encourager—a cheerleader. My gift lies in being supportive to my friends, believing in them, standing firm behind the efforts they make. For me, the greatest thrill is seeing them succeed.

However they, like myself, do not always find success. Regardless of how I cheer them on, they may not always win. We often work toward goals and fall to disappointment. It’s frustrating and tiring, even somewhat depressing to work diligently toward a goal and continually hit obstacles—be rejected, told no. And though we are happy for those who do succeed, we ache inside for our own loss.

I love the story of Jacob and Rachel for a couple of reasons. First, what woman alive wouldn't die to have a man love her to the extent Jacob loved Rachel. Secondly, Jacob wasn’t a quitter. He loved Rachel and he worked seven years to earn her hand in marriage. Even though her father deceived him, and gave him her sister instead, Jacob loved Rachel. He’d lost round one but he kept working. He slaved another seven years to win the prize.

When we work hard and lose the fight we want to quit—convince ourselves it’s fruitless, not worth the effort. What if Jesus would have quit after His first confrontation with the Pharisees? What if He’d thrown His hands in the air and said, “These children of God aren’t worth the effort. I quit.” Where would we be? But He didn’t He pushed through—all the way to the cross.

I may be a lousy cheerleader, fail to be the encourager God meant me to be. I may never see my own hard worked efforts materialize but it’s not a license to quit. Earthly success and affirmations are great but they’re not always easily found. Remember Jesus didn’t find His pleasure in earthly success. He found it in the bigger picture. Our eternal salvation. Run the race, work as though tomorrow will never come. Never give up. Jacob didn’t and thank goodness, Jesus didn’t.

Will you chose to work or quit?

Cindy has her BA in Business from the University of Phoenix. She is the co-founder, along with Eddie Jones, of ChristianDevotions.us and TINKERTIME Productions, a video trailer production company.
Cindy is an author and newspaper columnist and writes the popular He Said, She Said devotions with Eddie Jones.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Searching for Hope -- Sue Payne


A voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight paths for him.’Luke 3:4

It was nearly 10:00 PM when I arrived home from work. The neighborhood was strangely quiet and the air had a crisp chill. After retrieving the mail, I headed back up the driveway. That’s when I heard the lone call. I stopped, rather puzzled as my eyes and ears were drawn in its direction. It was the voice of one Canada goose.

From what I knew about these loyal birds, it was odd to hear its solitary cry so late at night. By nature, they stay in community and need companionship. Geese are known to establish partnerships that last for their lifetime. I immediately wondered whether it was in search of a lost loved one, hoping to reunite.

Many of us spend our lifetime searching in hope of something or someone. We hope to find happiness in our relationships. We hope to achieve success through our labor. We hope to find peace in the midst of storms. We search, yet how many of us think to prepare for the hope to come?

In the book of Jeremiah, chapter 32, God tells the prophet to buy a field outside Jerusalem, a city that had been under siege for almost a year. Enemy soldiers occupied this particular piece of land. A poor investment, you say? But Jeremiah decided to place his hope in God’s promise of returning His people to Jerusalem and rebuilding it. So he bought the land and signed the deed in the presence of witnesses. Jeremiah was prepared to live, to act, and to trust God as if the promises had already come true.

Our world is under siege and the enemy occupies much of our land. But have you heard the call? Prepare the way of the Lord! Make straight paths for Him by removing the obstacles of hopelessness. Begin to live like God’s promises have been fulfilled! Be a witness of the hope that comes from trusting in His amazing grace! Anticipate the good things God has in store and live each day preparing your heart to receive them!



Sue Payne is a freelance writer whose articles have appeared in home schooling newsletters and church news bulletins. She is experienced in curriculum planning and design and uses her writing skills to encourage and teach others. Sue lives in Delaware, is married, and has two boys whom she home schooled for a total of fourteen years.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

The Coolest of the Cool -- Pat Patterson

"Boldly and without hindrance he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ." Acts 28:31

I couldn’t believe it! He was my hero. The coolest of the cool. Warlord of the most vicious gang of teenagers that ever roamed the streets of New York, and he was coming to my hometown. I had to see him! It was a teenaged boy’s dream come-true.

I had read his book several times, at least to the point where he became a Christian, but I never ventured past that page; I just wasn’t interested. But what I didn’t realize at the innocent age of 13 was that God was interested in me. He had a plan for my life and it all seemed to begin the day I first picked up that paperback book—Run Baby, Run.

“Nicky Cruz? He’s coming to town?”

“Yeah,” my sister said. “You wanna go?”

“Are you kidding? Yes!”

I felt wild with anticipation. Something thrilling was about to happen. I put on my coolest denim jacket and boots, slid a fake switchblade knife into my pants pocket, and followed my sister downtown.

The auditorium was packed. A feeling of intensity gripped the room. And then suddenly I saw him. He walked to the podium. I gazed in utter amazement. He was everything I had imagined and more, solid, tough looking and scarred with a no-nonsense approach that thrilled me to the core. I couldn’t believe I was actually looking at him.

Nicky Cruz!

And then he started to talk. He spoke of the ghetto, and of switchblades, and of zip guns and chains and blood. Of girls, of killing, of drinking and fighting and drugs. His story came to life. Filled me with wonder and awe. But as he continued to speak and shared the rest of the story that I had avoided so many times—of the skinny preacher who walked into Brooklyn and boldly shared the gospel that had forever changed his life—something happened to me. I began to feel a deep yearning, an emptiness that longed to be filled. And whatever it was that tough Puerto Rican kid had found after so many years of fighting and running from God—I wanted it.

“Jesus,” Nicky exclaimed. “He saved me. He can save you too!”

The service drew to a close. He gave the altar call. I inched forward with a hundred other people. I didn’t even know why. But as I made my way to the foot of the stage and gazed into his eyes something remarkable happened.

“Did you do it?” my sister asked me. “Did you pray to receive Christ?”

“Me?” I said, coolly shaking my head. “Nah, I just wanted to see what Nicky looked like. He was cool!”

But you know the truth—I did do it. I bowed my head and prayed. I asked Jesus Christ to come into my heart, and since that night my life has never been the same.

*
Fifty years ago a bold young preacher walked into Brooklyn and risked his life to share his faith with the gangs, and a boy named Nicky Cruz responded. And the night Nicky came to my hometown, I responded too. Now what about you? Have you met the Lord Jesus? Have you responded to his call? If not, don’t waste another day. Get down on your knees tonight and invite Christ into your life. Take it from a man who knows—from a naïve teenaged boy who responded almost forty years ago—you’ll be glad you did!

*
Dear Nicky, God used you to ignite a fire in my heart. Then Jesus did the rest. I thank God for your boldness. I thank God for you. Happy Birthday! You are still the coolest of the cool! --Pat Patterson

Learn more about Nicky Cruz and his outreach at http://nickycruz.org/



Pat Patterson is a novelist, a paramedic, and an instructor of Emergency Medical Science. His stories are true, based on real experiences from the streets of Durham, North Carolina where he has served as a paramedic since 1992.

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