2 Haiti 4 Him

The Heckman family serving the Lord in Haiti at Emmaus Biblical Seminary

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Advent Day #25- Merry Christmas!!!

Today is day 25 of our advent countdown to Christmas.... 
so thankful that you have taken this journey with us!

What an exciting day!  I couldn't wait to get the kids up this morning (yes- our kids are THAT old!)...

We began the day with our final reading in our advent devotional.  Today we placed the star on our tree and read, in Luke 2, how angels appeared to the shepherds in the fields and told them of the birth of the Savior, the Messiah, Jesus... 

No matter how many times we have read the story of Jesus' birth, it always brings such joy and emotion!

The most difficult thing about Christmas for me is that there is such a great build up for the special day, and then- like a flash- its over. I always want it to last longer...

But the amazing thing is, and it seems to be hitting me harder this year than ever before, is that Christmas day may pass, but Jesus stays with us. 

Christmas goes on forever!  
The birth of Christ... the reality of His Presence coming to earth... the Gift of salvation and the Great LOVE it represents... 

THAT is what its all about! 

The Gift of Jesus is with us now. And it will be with us tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day, and the....

He IS truly the Gift that keeps on giving!

Our final question in our devotions today was a great one:

"How can you unwrap more of Him in the coming year?"

We talked about what unwrapping the Gift of Jesus each day looks like in our own lives... from intentionally spending more time in His Word, to living out conversational prayer with God throughout the day, to actively being Jesus to others...

We have the privilege as followers of Jesus Christ- the Greatest Gift- to share that gift with others, to BE a gift to others!

We can continue to keep Christmas alive by doing what Jesus did- going into the world and bringing light and hope to people living in darkness!

How might He be calling you to unwrap more of Him this coming year?

Our prayer for you this evening of Christmas is that you take time to REST in Him, to REJOICE in Him, to RESPOND to His call, and to RADIATE His love!!!

Merry Christmas from the Heckmans in Haiti!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Advent Day #24- Kneel at the Manger

Christmas Eve is such a special day.  There are so many things to do leading up to Christmas... and then tonight, we get to take it all in.  We get to reflect on the real "Why" of Christmas... on the real "Who" of Christmas.

Tonight is all about Him.  Tonight is about coming to the manger and kneeling before God in worship.

As you go through this Christmas Eve, and celebrate Christmas tomorrow, and in the days to come after Christmas is over... don't forget to stop and reflect... to enter into His Presence and to kneel at the manger.  There is SO much more that He can offer you than the world can ever give.  He IS Life!

We are so very thankful this Christmas season for His many blessings- which includes YOU!  Your love, prayers and support are felt each and every day! 

Merry Christmas from our family to yours!

Ethan and Haylie in their Christmas "sweaters" 
(Thanks Stacey for getting all of us these shirts! We love them!!)

Christmas Eve dinner with the Ayars family! (So thankful for them!)

Merry Christmas from the EBS Family!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Advent Day #23- The Lord Saves!

Two days...  TWO DAYS!  Christmas is less than two days away as I type.  I am loving these daily advent devotionals!

This year, Christmas has seemed so much more near...

So much more meaningful...

I truly believe it is because we have been so intentional about surrounding ourselves with His Word, and that Word has brought life to this special season!

Today, we look at the story of Joseph... Mary heard from the angel Gabriel that she would conceive... and Joseph received his message from an angel too.  In a dream...

The very first words spoken to Joseph carry a lot of weight.  The angel called him "Joseph, son of David" (Matthew 1)...

These opening words are not merely a reference to Joseph's lineage, his connection to the family line of David... they were a connection to the very prophecy that the Messiah would come from that family line.  And what the angel told Joseph was that his son would be THAT Messiah.

The angel also told Joseph what he should name that son.  "You are to name Him Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins."

Jesus means "the Lord saves"... and Joseph would have the job of raising the Son of God.  The Lord. The Messiah.  God with us!

Today we read that Christmas is "about God's doing whatever it takes to be with us."  Even to the point of becoming a fragile human being... a humble baby born in a stable in Bethlehem...  God in the flesh.

As we spend one last day getting ready for Christmas let's not forget that it is all about God coming down to be with us!  Jesus is the Lord who has come to save us!  And THAT is why we celebrate!!!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Advent Day #22- I am the Lord's Servant

Christmas is three days away, and my heart is so ready.  (Did I mention how much I love Christmas?)

Today, we looked at the story of the angel Gabriel coming to Mary.  He came to tell her that she would be the mother of the Messiah.  She would give birth to the Son of the Most High. The Holy Spirit would come upon her and she would become pregnant... with God in the flesh. (Luke 1:28-35)

That would be A LOT to take in!  I cannot even imagine what she must have been thinking and feeling.  But her response is so beautiful... and such a great example for all of us.

She says, "I am the Lord's servant. May everything you have said about me come true." (Luke 1:38)

All I can say is "Wow".

In our devotional today, Ann said these words: "It's the strangest, most wondrous thing: when you open up your hands and say yes to whatever God wants to give you..."

I still remember when my kids were toddlers and I would ask them to do something for me.  If they really didn't want to do it they would clench their fists in frustration and stomp their feet.  Holding those hands closed, putting on that scowl, and holding their ground was their way of saying NO!
(Of course I had my ways of getting them to change that tune! hehe!)

The point of what I'm saying is that we often close our hands to God when He is calling us, when He is asking us to do something.  We keep our hands closed, we put on that scowl, and we stand our ground with a whole list of excuses...

But what if, instead, we held our hands open to God... just like Mary?  What if we let go of whatever we are holding on to, and instead we prayed with our hands free, held up to Him, and offered ourselves as His servants?

What a blessing would come if we only be willing to let go and let God.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Advent Day #21- Prepare the Way of the Lord!

Matthew 3:1-3

In those days, John the Baptist ams to the Judean wilderness and began preaching. His message was, "Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near." The prophet Isaiah was speaking about John when he said, "He is a voice shouting in the wilderness, 'Prepare the way for the LORD's coming! Clear the road for him!'"

There are only 4 days til Christmas... FOUR DAYS!!  There is so much preparation to be done for so many.  Presents to wrap, cookies to make, packing to do, parties to prepare for, services to get ready for...

We spend LOTS of time in preparation for Christmas.  

And so did John the Baptist- over 2000 years ago!

John's call was to prepare the way for the Savior.  He called people to repentance, to prepare for God's Kingdom to come to the earth.  Jesus was coming as the greatest gift ever!

Amidst the many preparations for all that we have planned this Christmas, it is so very important that we take time to prepare for Jesus too.  To ready our hearts to celebrate the most important part of it all- the Reason for the Season (sorry... I couldn't help it!)...

Today, in our devotions, we were asked to take some time to think about what it really means to have Jesus here with us, right now.  How does He make a difference in our lives?!

Today- take some time to ask yourself that same question:

How does He make a difference in your life? 

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Advent Day #20- God Remembers!

At the end of the Old Testament, we read from the prophets and receive the message of hope- there is a coming Savior.  And between the Old and New Testaments, we have 400 years of silence.  400 years of WAITING...

I hate waiting at a traffic light (maybe that's why God put me in Haiti where we have NO traffic lights! haha!)... I can't imagine waiting my whole life time for something and never to receive it!

But even though it must have seemed like FOREVER for God's people- waiting was a necessary part of the salvation story.  God waited until the timing was perfect to send His perfect Son.

Today, as we read the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth, we are reminded that in our time of waiting... God remembers! (Zechariah's name literally means "God remembers"!)

Zechariah and Elizabeth desperately wanted children, but she was unable to conceive.  One day, as Zehariah was working in the temple, an angel appeared to Him and said, "God has heard your prayer. Your wife, Elizabeth, will give you a son, and you are to name him John. You will have great joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the eyes of the Lord..." (Luke 1)

ALL THAT TIME of waiting (they were both very old)... but God remembered.  He heard their prayers and not only were they going to have a son, but that son would be John the Baptist... the one who would prepare the way for Jesus to come!

"... he will turn many Israelites to the Lord their God. He will be a man with the spirit and power... He will prepare the people for the coming of the Lord!"

The miraculous birth of John the Baptist came just before the miraculous birth of Jesus. And the beauty of the Christmas story is that the miracle of Jesus birth is for every one of us!  We can ALL receive the miraculous gift of Jesus!!! God remembers our need, and He fills that need with His Son!

The greatest gift we could receive for Christmas, or EVER, is Jesus.  May we not forget that this Christmas!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Advent Day #19- We Are Grateful For...

We are SO close to Christmas.  6 more days!  I can hardly wait!

As I have said before, Christmas is my FAVORITE time of the year.  We get to celebrate the anticipation of the birth of Christ... the weeks leading up to the celebration of the most amazing event of all time!  (God sent Himself in human form to die for the sins of the world... it doesn't get any more amazing and humbling than that!)

Today, we look at the small, prophetic book of Habakkuk. Not your typical scripture reading for the Christmas season... but SO very important!

We have been going through the family tree of Jesus- and we now come to the prophet Habakkuk, who prophesied during the time just before the exile of God's people.  It was hard to find hope during such a difficult time.  Because of their disobedience, God was going to hold up His end of the covenant promise to exile His people because they were unfaithful to Him.  And through their suffering, they would turn back to Him.  God knew it was necessary for repentance... but it sure was hard for Him and for His people...

Habakkuk cries out to God and says, "I will climb up to my watchtower and stand at my guard post. There I will wait to see what the LORD says and how He will answer my complaint..."

And then he goes onto say that even though everything seems dark, barren and empty... "yet I will rejoice in the LORD! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation! The Sovereign LORD is my strength!" (Habakkuk 2:1, 3:17-19)

Habakkuk understood what it meant to wait on the Lord and to trust in His salvation... to rejoice even when he didn't understand... to trust when there was nothing he could do in his own strength. 

To be grateful amidst difficulty is hard... but to be continually thankful EACH day helps us to appreciate things when times are tough.

Today, we were given the task of making a "grateful" jar.  We are to write down things that we are grateful for whenever we think of them and place them in the jar.  And this jar can serve as a reminder during tough times, of how very much we have to be thankful for!  We can go to that jar and pull out the many reasons we can praise God!  What are you grateful for? Maybe you could make a jar to help remember ALL that you have to be grateful for too!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Advent Day #18- Use Your Life...

The story of Queen Esther is one of my favorites in all of scripture.  It is a story about a woman who bravely stood in the gap for her people- and saved the lives of thousands.

At the time of the exile, Jews were living in Susa under the authority of King Xerxes.  Xerxes sent for women all over the Kingdom to come to the palace so that he could choose his new queen.  

Esther, a Jewish woman, captured the king's heart and was chosen among the women to become the new queen (although he did not know she was Jewish).  

Shortly after this, an order went out for the Jews to be killed (a secret, conniving plan set up by one of the king's officials Haman- because Esther's Uncle Mordecai refused to bow to him)... and now Esther had to make a decision.

Would she risk her life by going into the king's chamber without permission in order to save her people, God's people!?  

We read in Esther 4 that Mordecai told Esther, "Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for such a time as this?"  

And Esther responded by saying,

"I will go in to see the king. If I must die, I must die."  

Esther's faith in God and her commitment to His people saved Israel! As Ann Voskamp puts it in her devotional, God calls us to "Use the life you've been given to give others life."

Right now there are people all around us in need.  Physical needs, spiritual needs.  Needy people who need God's love expressed in real and tangible ways.  Needy people who need to hear the message of salvation that is possible for ALL people because God sent His Son on Christmas.

This Christmas- as we gather together to celebrate with family and friends, share gifts and meals together- may we not forget about those who are in need...

May we use our lives to give others life!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Advent Day #17- Bethlehem IS Me!

Bethlehem... of all the places...

 the tiny, little, insignificant town of Bethlehem is where the Savior of the world was born. 

I don't know what you think when you hear that, but it gives me hope.

It tells me that if God can use a simple, insignificant town, He can use me.  If God can bring something beautiful out of something ordinary... I just know that He can do something beautiful with my ordinary life too!

Sometimes we underestimate ourselves... and what it comes down to is that we are really underestimating God.  It is never about US.  It is always about HIM.  The things that He can do with our lives are beyond anything we can imagine... we just need to give Him free reign to DO those things with our lives.  To allow His Spirit to accomplish great things THROUGH us.

Jesus' birth, in that little town of Bethlehem, is a great reminder for us that God desires to use the least likely, the small and seemingly insignificant... Bethlehem IS Me. (and you!)  
We just need to be available!

Micah 5:2-5 says, 

"You, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, are only a small village among all the people of Judah. Yet a ruler of Israel will come from you.... He will lead His flock... in the majesty of the name of the LORD His God... And He will be the source of peace."

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Advent Day #16- A Lesson from Jonah!

I have thoroughly enjoyed going through this Advent journey with our family, and especially being able to share what God is speaking to me through Unwrapping the Greatest Gift, by Ann Voskamp.

I want to especially note again that this her book we are going through, because today's devotional was SO good I thought it would be best to quote straight from her!

Today, we looked further into the journey through the Old Testament leading to Bethlehem, and we came to the story of Jonah.  Jonah the prophet did NOT want to follow God's command to go to sinful Ninevah.  He had NO desire to be pushed out of his comfort zone and so instead, he ran from God (never a good idea!).  This is what Ann says about how this story compares to us:

"Some days you just really don't want to show up, you don't want to do the hard things you have to do, and you don't want to do the very big or even very little things that God tells you to do.  Which is exactly how Jonah felt..."

Does this sound at all familiar? (It does for me!)

Jonah boarded a boat in the opposite direction, and God caused a storm that nearly capsized the boat.  Jonah knew exactly what was happening... God was trying to get his attention.  So he told the others on the boat to throw him over, and he ended up in the belly of a huge fish...  with a lot of time to reflect on life, to cry out to God, to ask for His forgiveness!

It was in these moments that...

"Jonah got the gift that we all get in every storm: the gift of seeing how much we need God."

Let that soak in for a bit...

Now, flash forward... to the moment when Jesus is in a boat, and a similar storm comes up and the disciples wake him having no idea what to do.  And what does Jesus do? By His word, He would calm that storm, and reveal that He was truly God... and that He has power over every storm!

"... Jesus didn't calm just one storm but all our storms. Jesus throws Himself right into our angriest storms so He can calm our ugliest days. Since Jesus came to save us, there isn't a storm big enough to scare us."

What it came down to with Jonah was whether or not He believed God... whether or not He really trusted Him with his life.

And what it comes down to with us is the same thing.  Doe we believe God?  Do we trust Him with our lives?

He has been performing miracles since... well, for eternity, I imagine! (The whole "outside-of-time-and-space-thing" is well beyond my comprehension!)  He has given us His Word, FULL of those miracles... and we have proof in the text that in the midst of life, no matter what we have going on... He can be trusted!  He is still performing miracles today... and if we give our lives over to Him, we will see even more amazing things than we could ever imagine!

Today... let's thank God for the miracle of Jesus, for the blessing of His calling on our lives, for even the storms that bring us to our knees, and ask for forgiveness for the times we haven't trusted Him- committing TODAY to put our faith in Him and His plan!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Advent Day #15- Modern Day Baals

"How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him; but if Baal, then follow him..." 1 Kings 18:21

The story of Elijah on Mt Carmel is one of my top 5 favorite stories in the Bible.  The wicked King Ahab and his even more wicked wife Jezebel have handed Israel over to Baal worship, and Elijah is right smack in the middle of it all.  God has called Elijah to be a prophet to His people and by God's command, he confronts this religious apostasy.

He calls together the 450 prophets of Baal and informs them of his plan to show them who is really worthy of their worship!  He tells them to choose a bull and lay it on an altar but not to set it on fire (and he would do the same).  Then, he told them to call upon their god, and Elijah would call upon His God, "and the God who answers by fire, He is God." (1 Kings 18:24)

The prophets called out to their gods from morning til midday, crying aloud and even cutting themselves... "but there was no voice. No one answered: no one paid attention." (verse 29)

Then... Elijah builds an altar, and he doesn't just put wood on it, he builds a trench around it, and then covers the sacrifice and the wood and the altar with water.  Not once... not twice... but three times!  The altar was soaked and the trench was full. And then He called upon the name of the One True God...

And "the fire of the LORD fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust and licked up the water that was in the trench..." (verse 38)

and what happened when the people saw this amazing display of God's great power and provision?

"They fell on their faces and said, "The LORD, He is God; the LORD, He is God." (verse 39)

Bowing down to false idols, or making sacrifices to Baal may sound crazy to us, but how often do we set up other "gods" and idols in place of the One True God.  Can you think of any "Baals" that may be present in your life?

Anything that takes our hearts away from God, any possession or position, any person or plan can take the place of God if we are not careful. We can find ourselves worshipping money, power, and fame, or even things like family, comfort and safety... and while the latter things may not seem so bad, we are called to love God with ALL that we are and ALL that we have.  And we are told that NOTHING should be more important in our lives than Him.

Today, as we think about what it means to truly worship Jesus with all that we have and all that we are... is there anything keeping you from worshipping Him alone?  What "modern day Baals" might you need to get rid of, stop trusting in, run away from, that are hindering you from truly embracing Christ this Christmas?

God desires nothing more than to be YOUR God!


Sunday, December 14, 2014

Advent Day #14- A Light Will Shine

Today, we looked at the prophetic words of Isaiah that are such familiar words during the Christmas season.  We listen as they are quoted from scripture in churches... we hear them in songs on our Christmas albums... we see them in Christmas signs...

Isaiah 9 foretells that a Child would be born, a Son would be given, and He would be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace!

The beginning of this chapter in Isaiah is just as poignant for us this Christmas too.  

Isaiah says this:

"The people who walk in darkness will see a great light,
For those who live in a land of deep darkness,
a light will shine..." (Isaiah 9:2)

Here are some things we know about light:

 Light exposes the darkness. Light reveals imperfections. Light brings warmth. Light encourages and enables growth. Light guides our paths. 
Light brings LIFE!

And Jesus...

HE is the light Isaiah was talking about.  And these very things are what Jesus did in the earth, and what He continues to do for us!

The presence of Christ in our lives has the power to light our lives... to expose our dark places and reveal our imperfections... to bring warmth and hope that encourages us to grow... to light our way and to bring us life!

This Christmas, as we look to Christ, may we ask Him to work on areas of our lives that need His bright and perfecting Light.  May we grow so close to Him that we feel His warmth within us and around us... and that no matter how dark things may be, or how difficult the road ahead of us may seem, we never lose sight of the True Light that reveals, redeems, and restores!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Advent Day #13- Humble Beginnings

I have always loved the story of young David turned King of Israel.  He was the least likely candidate... the runt of the litter... the shepherd boy.  And God chose HIM to be His representative to His people... their King.... and through this King, all humanity would be blessed.

Why I love this story is because it speaks to all of us.  So many times I have felt undeserving of God's blessings, under-qualified to do His work...

And yet He whispers to us... through David's story... that NO ONE is too small, too weak, too uneducated, too broken to be used by Him for His glory.  David's faith is what drew God to choose him.

David's heart is what mattered.  And His heart was like God's heart.

And Jesus too was the unlikely choice in the eyes of the religious leaders of His day.  He was a carpenter, the son of Joseph, born in a manger in Bethlehem, grew up in Nazareth...

He was poor and homeless.. He ate with sinners and hung out with tax collectors.

But Jesus' humble beginnings led to a life of humility which led to a humble death on a cross... for us. For you and for me.

No matter how many times I hear that, I am always humbled that He would choose ME!

Just as God chose David... He chose Jesus. Jesus represented all of us as He went to His death for our sins.

And just as God chose David.... He chooses us.  We are His representatives to the world. We are called to point others to Jesus.

May we use the season of Christmas as an opportunity to introduce people to the True King, our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Friday, December 12, 2014

I'm DONE! Advent Day #12- Darkness and Light!


Now, before you think our family is leaving the mission field, or I'm throwing in the towel on homeschooling or cooking or laundry (all three of the latter things I have seriously considered being done with on bad days (I must confess!), but thankfully God's mercies are new every morning!)... I better explain...

I am officially DONE my first semester in my Masters Program!!!!  I can't even begin to explain how great it feels to have completed my first 3 courses.  It has been a TON of work, required lots of grace from my husband and kids, filled my mind with an overwhelming amount of information... but it has been WELL worth it!  (Now... just 6 more semesters to go!)

Thankful to all of you who have been praying for me and for our family through this busy time these last 8 weeks of school. I have felt it! (keep 'em coming!)

Today we can also say that we are DONE our first semester of the 2014-2015 school year here at Emmaus!! It has been an awesome year so far.  I am getting more and more excited about teaching next semester and having the opportunity to get to know our third year class more intimately!
 (You can be praying for that too, please!)

The next couple weeks we are going to TRY to rest and catch up on house stuff and family time... very much looking forward to that!

On to our advent journey...

Today, we moved from the story of Rahab and her family in Jericho, to the story of Ruth.  If you have never read Ruth, I really encourage you to sit down and read it.  It is a short but powerful book!  It foreshadows the coming Redeemer in a beautiful narrative.

This story highlights Ruth's faithfulness to her mother-in-law Naomi, and to God, and includes the famous words, "Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live.  Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God." Ruth 1:16

God miraculously leads Ruth, a Moabite women, into a situation where Naomi's family is redeemed and their land restored.  He places Ruth in a wheat field to glean... and this is where she meets Boaz, the man who would be her kinsman-redeemer.  

It is a love story that reminds all of us of the love story God is writing in our lives.  HE desires to be our Redeemer!

When Naomi thought that all hope was lost... when she was in her darkest times... God brought light. And that light redeemed.

Just like in our lives.  When He sent His Son Jesus, He was a light in a dark place... 
And He redeemed us.

Today we were reminded of how the darkness makes the light seem so much brighter. If there is any season that is more filled with lights in the darkness, that is more able to reveal this truth to us...
its Christmas! 

We should thank God each day for being our Light!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Christmas Festivities at EBS!... and Advent Day #11- Red Reminds Us

BOY!  Today has been FULL!

We had the annual Christmas party... which was a blast, as is ANY get-together with our students!

(Musical Chairs!)

And then this evening, after baking LOTS of cookies and gathering decorations and blowing up balloons, and putting together fun little presents, we gathered at the Ayars house (where Stacey spent the last two days working hard decorating and wrapping and baking!) for our Staff Christmas Party!  And THAT was a BLAST!

Starting with an opening prayer and thanks from Matt, we moved into a time of games!  

We opened with an always-exciting-and-very-active balloon game... which ended with Simeon and Maxi on the floor!!

And then we moved to the Limbo, which was a HUGE hit!!!

The Winners!  (Lucner, Haylie and Junior)

We closed with a present game (white elephant) that was super exciting too!  

And took a big group picture with everyone! (...sad that FanFan, Claudin, and Belony couldn't be with us- we missed them!). 
I am SO thankful to have the opportunity to serve alongside of these amazing people!!! 

Because I am SO tired, I am going to keep the devotional part short... but I certainly couldn't leave it out, because today's story is really good!

Today, we looked at the story of Rahab, the prostitute who put her trust in God and helped the spies Joshua sent into Jericho to spy out the land.  Because of her belief and trust in God, she and her whole family were spared... 

by placing a red rope out her window, Israel knew not to hurt her family...
and Rahab becomes part of the very lineage of Jesus.  NOT the person one might expect, huh?

What this story reminds us is that God has the power to turn ANYONE'S life around.  He asks us to put our faith and trust in Him and allow His Spirit to do the work in our lives.  

That red rope was a symbol of Rahab's trust in God... that He would save her.  That red rope reminds us of Jesus, our lifeline (our red rope) that leads to salvation, if we would just trust in Him!

Whenever you see red this Christmas (which is OFTEN!), let it remind you of Rahab and her faith in God. May it encourage you to continue to trust Him and encourage you to share the Good News with others... remembering that God is powerful and, like Rahab, He can change anyone's life and redeem even the darkest of circumstances! 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Advent Day #10- That it Might Go Well...

Today, we looked from Joseph to Moses.  After 400 years of slavery in Egypt, God's people were able to leave, and through one miracle after another, God brought them to Mount Horeb, where He gave His people the 10 Commandments.

These 10 commands were God's way of showing how we could love Him and love others.  In fact, as Jesus said, all of the commandments are summed up in those two things.

So often we forget how good boundaries are for us... we don't like to be told what to do... we don't like to feel confined...

We forget that God created these commandments "so that it might go well with them and their children forever." (Deuteronomy 5)

The 10 Commandments are God's way of showing us how much He loves us and desires to protect us.  These laws are truly a gift, if we would just learn to see them that way.

Take a look at them in Deuteronomy 5... and as you read, ask yourself how they reveal God's love to you... you will be surprised at how much they express love when you stop to think about it!

And... the only way that Jesus was able to be a perfect sacrifice was for Him to live a sinless life.  What that sinless life represented was a HUGE offering of LOVE for us! Praise God that He sent us His Son, Jesus!!!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Advent Day #9- God Intended it All for Good!

Yesterday's devotional reminded us that Jesus carries us through difficult times, and that He will never leave us.

Today, as we continued looking at the life of Jacob, we came to the story of Jacob's son, Joseph.  We are told that Jacob loved Joseph very much, and to show his love he gave Joseph a special, colorful coat...

This gesture of love made Joseph's brothers very jealous, and they decided to sell their own brother into slavery and convince their dad that he was dead.

Many years later, after years of prosperity, mixed with times of hardship, Joseph ended up second in command to Pharaoh.  When a famine came upon the land, Joseph's brothers went to Egypt for help and were once again united with the brother they had gotten rid of.

When his brothers beg for forgiveness, Joseph responded with these famous words, "You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good." Genesis 50:20

This lesson is a great reminder to us that God desires to take our difficulties and turn them into good. He wants to use the struggles and trials of life for His glory in our lives... we just need to trust that He will.

As we come closer to Christmas (16 days away!!!), may we remember this truth and that the ultimate reality of it is found in baby Jesus.  The world was at one time perfect, and when sin entered in, it shattered that perfection...

BUT, God would turn everything around, He would defeat sin by sending His very own Son, as a baby born in a manger in Bethlehem, into the world to save it!  Christmas is the perfect expression of bringing good out of bad... bringing light into darkness!

May we thank God today that He always work things out for the good of those who love Him! (Romans 8:28)

Our Jesse Tree is looking good :)

Monday, December 8, 2014

Advent Day #8- The Lord is in this Place!

Today as we looked at our advent devotions, we moved to the story of Jacob, Isaac's son.  One night as Jacob is sleeping, he receives a vision from God- a ladder from heaven, with angels descending and ascending.  In this dream God makes a promise to Jacob, similar to Abraham, that He will have numerous descendants and that he will receive the land that God has promised...

But the words that stand out so boldly to me are these: God said, "I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go... I will not leave you..." (Genesis 28:15).

When Jacob wakes up from this dream, he knows that God's Presence is with him, and always has been... he declares:

"Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it." (Genesis 28:16)

What this vision reminds us is that God is with us, just as He was with Jacob.  He is watching over us and He will never leave us!

Christmas is a time of great celebration and joy because of the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ... but I am not unaware of the reality that Christmas is also hard for those same reasons.

Maybe you have lost someone close to you this past year... or maybe you are without a job and that makes Christmas difficult this year... or maybe you are battling an illness or awaiting test results... or maybe you are feeling an overwhelming amount of stress because of family situations.

If celebrating and living joyfully is difficult for you this season, because of hard times, let this story remind you that Jesus is right there with you, watching over you.  He will NEVER leave you!

May you have full assurance and peace that He is carrying you this Christmas season, and that even though there is struggle, He has come that you may have life, and have it to the fullest... we can take heart- because He has overcome the world! (John 16:33)

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Advent Day #7- The Lord Provides

"Abraham named the place 'The Lord Provides'." Genesis 22:14

Today we continued reading Abraham's story and came to the climax of his faith journey... when God asked him to take his only son Isaac and sacrifice him.

I cannot even imagine how difficult that must have been to hear... the son that he waited decades for... the son that he understood to be the blessing that God promised.

And the craziest part about the story is that Abraham said "yes"... and he took his son up the mountain, built an altar, and was ready to do what God commanded when God stopped him.  God stopped him and said that He could see that Abraham's faith was genuine.  He could see that Abraham truly put his trust in God.

And then there, in the bushes, was a ram.  He provided a ram for the sacrifice and Abraham, in turn, named that place "The LORD provides".

The phrase that stands out to me and is repeated in the story is "Here I am".  When God called out Abraham's name, he responded with those three words.  When you look all throughout the Bible, this phrase is repeated over and over again... and what it is saying under the surface is so much more than just here. I. am.

Those three words represent a willingness to come to God, to trust Him with what He is about to ask, to respond when he calls.

When we say "here I am" to God, we are offering ourselves as living sacrifices (like Abraham did when he was willing to take his son to the altar for God)... it's saying to God "I trust you, even when I don't understand."

How often do we say these words to God?  I believe that God doesn't just ask for this type of commitment in certain circumstances, but in EVERYDAY life.  I think that God wants us to commit every day to Him, being willing to say "Here I am" today... "I am trusting you" today... "Whatever your will is for me" today... "No matter what"... today.

As we celebrate this season of Christmas, and surround ourselves with decorations, songs, events, gifts, lights, people... may we also be reminded that all of this is about something SO MUCH BIGGER.

Let's take the time to thank God for HIS provision... for the MANY ways that He has blessed us and provided for our needs...  BUT may we also be sure to remember that the greatest provision God has given us is Jesus.  He has provided a way of salvation.

He is THE lamb that became OUR substitute.

What a humbling and awesome gift!

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Advent #6- Laughter, The Best Medicine!

Today, in our advent devotions, we continued reading about the covenant promise that God made to Abraham- that he would be blessed and that through him, blessing would come to all nations.

That promise was for descendants that would number the stars in the sky... and it finally came true in the birth of his son.

What I love about this story is what Abraham and Sarah named their promised baby.  They named him Isaac, which means "he laughs".  The reason they chose this name is because the birth of a baby to Sarah, at 90 years old, was crazy!!!  And Abraham became a father at 100 years old!  Can you even imagine?!  

If you know me, you know how much I LOVE to laugh and make people laugh!

When I think back to when I was little, I remember how my dad would love getting his Reader's Digest each month.  He would sit in his red chair and laugh so hard at one of his favorite sections: Laughter, The Best Medicine. 

 It was FULL of stories that were there for one purpose: to make you laugh!  And it sure worked for my dad :)

Laughter truly is great medicine... and I believe it is a gift from God.  It has the power to help us get through painful times, to help take our minds off of the stresses of life, to help us step back from situations and just enjoy the moment.

So, when was the last time you laughed?  Like really laughed?!  

When we don't stop and take the time to laugh and enjoy life we miss so much!  When stress is bearing down on you and when life seems like its more than you can bear... I encourage you to stop and find a way to laugh.  

As we look back to the story of Abraham and Sarah we can see that God's blessing to them was wrapped up in laughter... in joy... in celebration! 

No matter how busy and crazy the Christmas season can be... make sure that you take the time to laugh... to be filled with joy... and to celebrate the birth of Christ!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Advent Day #5- When I Look at the Stars!

I so wish I could capture the Haiti night sky in a picture for you...

It is beautiful!

Without light pollution, the sky is so much more vivid.  On any given night you can see thousands of stars twinkling in the sky!

Today's advent devotional was about the promise God made to Abram... that his descendants would number the stars in the sky... that he would be blessed and in turn, through him, a blessing would come to ALL people.

When we think about the stars, about counting the thousands of stars in the sky, it can remind us of the thousands of blessings that God has given us.

Last year, our women's Bible study group went through Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts.  It was a great journey through thinking about the many things that we have to be thankful for.

No matter how difficult things can be sometimes we have SO much to thank God for.  This Christmas, as you look to the stars, think about the many things that God has blessed you with and thank Him for them!  

And most importantly... thank Him for His gift to you in Jesus!