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Are you willing?

December 19, 2014

“And Mary said, ‘Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.’ And the angel departed from her.” Luke 1:38 ESV

In Luke 1:28-38 we read about Mary’s encounter with Gabriel.  Mary is going about her day when Gabriel appears and tells her she has found favor with God! She will conceive and give birth to a son and she will name him Jesus. Mary didn’t understand but was willing to be used by God as our key verse states, ” I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” I wonder if I would be so willing?

Ann Voskamp in her book “Unwrapping the Greatest Gift A Family Celebration of Christmas”  writes ‘And Mary? Mary opened her hands (which is what a willing yes always does). Mary said yes to becoming a space for God. Right there in the space beneath Mary’s beating heart would come the beating love of God.” She goes on to say “When you make space in your words, in your wants, in your ways for Jesus, He comes and lives in the most miraculous way in your heart, too. It’s the strangest, most wondrous thing: when you open up your hands and say yes to whatever God wants to give you, you are really holding on to the hands of God. And no matter what your day  looks like, no matter what happens, no matter how bad things get, your very BIG GOD can make anything, no matter how bad, into a gift.”

Ann continues, “Right Now, God wants to hold your unsure hand. He wants to hold you and all your needs and all your fears. He wants to whisper gently, ‘I am here, you have nothing to fear and everything to rejoice about. Nothing is impossible for Me! I promise I have good gifts for you-unbeatable love and unstoppable joy and unfailing strength and the most unwrappable gift: Jesus, who always rescues you with the strongest arms of love!”

Personal Application: Is there something you need to let go of to make more room for Jesus?

Home Application: Here is an activity from Ann’s book. Close your hands in fists and then open again. As you do, think about giving God whatever is bothering you. Find one way to open your hand and say yes to God.

How are you being used by God to show His love to the world?

Devotional written by Kathy Spade

Are you Martha or Mary?

December 18, 2014

“Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.’ But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.’  Luke 10:38-42 ESV

On Tuesday night of this week I had a group of young women at my home for dinner. We were participating in something called IF Table. IF table is based on Acts 2:46. “And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received there food with glad and generous hearts.”  It is a simple meal with a few people, discussing questions about God. Questions about where God is in your life and where you are with Him. We were asked to list three ways you can be “less Martha and more Mary this month”. This really hit me! I am a Martha…busy, busy, busy,…doing, doing, doing. Many times I am checking off my list instead of sitting at the feet of Jesus. Men don’t think this doesn’t apply to you…just change the names!

As we discussed this question, the answers were as varied as the women there. We are all in different ages and stages of life, yet each one of us desired to be more like Mary. How do we become more like Mary? I don’t have all the answers but here is what I do know. It is a choice. We have to be intentional. We have to choose Jesus and time with Him! One of the ladies shared that this year she has been intentional about doing a daily advent and how it has changed her view of Christmas…meditating on the miracle of a tiny baby being the Savior of the world! That’s choosing to be a Mary!

Personal Application: Think of specific ways you can be less Martha and more Mary starting today.

Home Application: As a family, spend time together over a meal, focusing on the awe, excitement and anticipation of the birth of Jesus.

How will you choose to be a Mary today?

Devotional written by Kathy Spade

All is Well

December 17, 2014

“… for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” (Philippians 4:11) (NIV)

My sons’ grandparents have a long held habit as they say goodbye to their grandkids. While we back out of the driveway, they stand outside and make a slow, sweeping gesture across their body with one arm, palm down. A stranger might think they are a little bit crazy, or Native Americans with light hair and blue eyes. But family knows exactly what they are saying. “All is well.” “Do not worry.” “Everything is going to be ok.” Such a simple gesture has brought much comfort and peace to us all. Although circumstances may seem to warrant worry and anxiety, these amazing people simply affirm that all is well. For they are content people.

Paul knew what it meant be be content, regardless of his circumstances. Writing from jail? He is content. Not a dollar to his name? Still content. His liberty stripped from him for no good reason? Content. For Paul had learned the “secret.” His peace hinged not on what was going on around him, but in him. For he knew that God’s peace guarded his heart, and his mind. Paul’s satisfaction was found in the person of Jesus Christ alone. As you head out into another new day, can’t you just see Him standing there, calmly reminding you that all is well?

Personal Application: How different will your day be if you find contentment in Christ, rather than your circumstances?

Home Application: Many children (and adults) believe that they would be content if they only had one more_____. Remind them that true peace and joy is found in Jesus, rather than a collection of toys or stuff.

Have you ever been content, even though things seem to be falling apart all around you? If so, why were you so content?

Devotional written by Clay Barton

Yea, but…

December 16, 2014

Do not be anxious about anything… (Philippians 4:6a) (ESV)

I love finding exceptions to a general rule. Too many years surrounded by lawyers conditioned me to think this way. “The Constitution, as amended, guarantees freedom of speech.” True. But I can’t yell “fire” in a crowded movie theater. Nor can I slander someone. Our broad, categorical statements usually have exceptions. Here is where it gets frustrating: God seems to not leave room for such exceptions. “Do not be anxious about anything” doesn’t leave much wiggle room. In fact, there is none. “Anything” means… anything!

Often I brag about the things that have me anxious: my spouse, my kids, my community of believers, my church. See what a great guy I am? I worry about good and noble things. Surely God is ok with me being anxious about those things, right? Or does He really mean it when He says I am not to worry about anything? You know the answer. I do too. Our heavenly Father desires that we live lives free of anxiety or worry. For such a life says to the world “my God has all this under control.” If we really believe that Christ has it all under control, why worry?

Personal and Home Application: When your family and friends look at you, do they see a person free of anxiety? Today, stay keenly aware of what you worry about, and then give that to God.

Are Christ followers known as the most peaceful, worry free people in the world? If not, what does this say about our level of trust in Him?

Devotional written by Clay Barton

Peace, God’s Way

December 15, 2014

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:7) (ESV)

Consumed by your to-do list? Overwhelmed with anxiety? Preoccupied? Agitated? On edge? I need peace. You too. Not necessarily the peace that reflects  the absence of war, but a softening of the noise going on inside each of us. Thankfully, we serve a God who is the Prince of Peace. In fact, I’ll promote Him today to the new title “King of Peace.” Jesus alone gives peace. He can disassemble the noise machine inside us. He says, with the same power that calms the storm, “Be quite. Sssshhh. Be still.”

The peace of God is not blissful detachment. Nor is it simply an easy-going personality. It is definitely not a life of luxury, ease and retirement. Rarely, if ever, has Christ called one to such a life. Rather, it is of God. Simply put, it is God.  Jesus. He alone is our peace. He is not a God of confusion, but peace. The peace that surpasses all understanding is found alone in the person of Jesus Christ. Prozac, alcohol and a life in isolation will never provide true peace. But Jesus does. Try Him. He will never fail you.

Personal Application: Because Jesus alone is the only one who can tame the stormy life inside you, travel the path that ends in Him.

Home Application: A calm and peaceful house never occurs unless we rest in His peace. For even one day, try resting in Him.

When was the last time you experienced a quite, calm and peaceful heart?

Devotional written by Clay Barton

One of a Kind

December 12, 2014

And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14) (ESV)

The Christmas season is the time when I seem to convince myself that Jesus was just like me. He was born, a baby boy, and lived with his parents just like I did. He was fully human. Me too. He took up residence among his very people. I moved to Dripping Springs, so me too again! He swung a hammer alongside his earthly father. I once practiced law across the street from my father. Jesus laughed. He cried. Just like you and me, right? Right. Sort of…

John’s gospel teaches us that Jesus is full of grace and truth. No other person can achieve the perfect balance of unmerited favor and truth. No one. Feeling generous today? Live as a grace-giving disciple of Christ. If you’re like me, only a few hours will pass before your ability to give grace fades. Full of truth? Good. But how harsh will you become throughout the day? But not Jesus. As the old song says, he rules the world with truth and grace. Take joy for a one of a kind man, full of grace and truth, came to this world to rescue you and me.

Personal Application: As your day unfolds, pay attention to your tendencies. Are you more of a grace-giver, or a truth teller? Ask God to show you where he wants you to grow more like him.

Home Application: Children seem especially keen on truth. They love pointing out when someone isn’t being truthful. Yet grace often lags far behind. Encourage them this weekend to look for chances to love someone who may not appear to be worth loving.

Which seems easier to you: giving grace or pointing out the truth? Why?

Devotional written by Clay Barton


December 11, 2014

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1) (ESV)

Although none of us remember the day, we had a beginning. A moment in time when we first came into existence. We celebrate birthdays to commemorate the moment we were born… but we existed inside our mothers even before then. We all had a starting point, and we use that starting point to measure life. While you’ve been here, how many times has the earth completed a revolution around the sun? Congratulations! You’re that old!

Christmas is the day we traditionally commemorate the birth of Jesus. We love to celebrate his amazing arrival. Every year, for but a short time, we focus on the beginning of his time on earth. Yet that wasn’t his starting point. Ready for a mystery? In the beginning, he was. He has always existed. Even before his birth, he existed. And he always will. Kind of makes your head hurt, doesn’t it? Our God is amazing. He is beyond our comprehension. Just when you think you have him all figured out, when you have reduced him to a baby in his mother’s arms, he reminds you that he had no beginning. For he truly is the great I Am.

Personal Application: The fact that God has always existed, yet humbled himself by becoming a baby boy, should affect you. Dwell today not on a baby in a manger, but an eternal God who loved you so much he came as a child.

Home Application: We don’t always have to have all the answers. Today, share with your family the amazing mystery of a child’s birth, who always has existed!

How does reflecting on the eternal nature of Jesus affect your trust in him?

Devotional written by Clay Barton

Fear… NOT!

December 10, 2014

…but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people.    Luke 2:10 (NLT)

Fear is a normal, God-given response that we have when we are threatened.  We might feel physically threatened by unknowingly walking up on a snake in the grass, or we could feel emotionally threatened through the loss of a loved one or friend.

Fear is supposed to motivate us.  Fear makes us run faster from the snake, or think harder about how to reorder our lives after a loss.  But many times, fear can paralyze us.  When we know we can’t run fast enough to get away or we have run out of ideas for reordering our lives, fear can begin to shut us down and leave us vulnerable.

The shepherds didn’t know what to think, as their usual lonely night in the hills was interrupted by a multitude of heavenly hosts.  As they contemplated what to do with their fear, the angel said, “Fear not!”  As the angel began to help them see the events of the moment through the perspective of God, fear was replaced with purpose and excitement and the shepherds became willing participants in the most important birth in human history.

Personal or Home Application-  Is there something you or a family member is fearing such as a health issue, job situation, or a medical report?  Fear can be changed to purpose and action when you are willing and able to get God’s perspective on your situation.  Have you stopped long enough to be still and get heart to heart with God about it, or have you been scrambling to make something happen in your own strength?  Talk to God about this, knowing God cares for you and has a purpose and plan in whatever is causing your fear.

What kind of event causes the most fear in you usually?

Devo by Jeff Humphrey

Social Status

December 9, 2014

That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified…   Luke 2:8-9 (NLT)

On the night of Jesus’ birth, there were many categories of people who were in the area surrounding Bethlehem.  There were city officials, Roman government leaders, Jewish religious leaders, successful businessmen, and other well-known people of the city.  Out of all the possible groups God could have picked to make known the birth of His son, the Messiah, His choice was a lowly group of shepherds.

Shepherds were today’s equivalent of the person who works the all night shift at the corner gas station.  When most everyone else is sleeping, the shepherd was called on to be awake.  It was not a prestigious job, but it was a job.  It was not the most influential position in society, so the shepherd probably learned to live with a lot less social life.

These shepherds were chosen to see the biggest birth announcement in history!  God pulled out all the stops and didn’t see these shepherds in regards to social status but saw them as people who needed to know that there was today born a Savior, Christ the Lord.

Personal and Home Application-  Is your or your family’s willingness to engage with people influenced by where they stand on a social scale?  When is the last time you looked eye to eye to talk, or shook the hand of someone who society says is low on the scale of worth and blessed them with your words?  God is not honored when we ignore the “least of these.”  Ask God to forgive you and help you to see people’s worth from His perspective, not the perspective of the world.  Today as you live your life, look for “the least of these” and speak a word of blessing or extend a helping hand to them.

How should Jesus reaching down to us inspire us to reach out to others?

Devo written by Jeff Humphrey

Fully God, Fully Man

December 8, 2014

And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born.She gave birth to her first child, a son. Luke 2:6-7a (NLT)


The birth of Jesus was a unique and amazing moment in history.  Because His mother was Mary, Jesus became fully human.  Because His father was God, Jesus is fully God.  No other being past, present or future would occupy this earth as fully God and man.

John explained it this way…

So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.   John 1:14 (NLT)

All of this is known as the incarnation, and it is the understanding that God, in one of the modes of His existence as Trinity and without in any way ceasing to be the one God, through Jesus revealed Himself to humanity for its salvation by becoming human.  As God-Man, He reveals and connects God to humanity; as Man-God, He represents humanity to God.[1]  Because of the incarnation, whosoever will believe in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life.  Because of the incarnation we can have life on this earth, and have it abundantly (John 10:10).

No mere human could become the perfect sinless sacrifice for sin that was needed to substitute for our sinfulness.  Only Jesus could, and only Jesus did.  This is why no one can come to God the Father except by Jesus (John 14:6).

Personal and Home Application:  This Christmas, when you look at a nativity scene, linger over the baby Jesus and whisper a prayer of thanks for God incarnate… the only Savior for humanity.  And remember, not everyone knows what you know about the incarnation so share the good news of the incarnation with someone who needs to hear about Him this Christmas.

Is it easier to think of Jesus as fully God or fully man?  Why?

Today’s devo written by Jeff Humphrey

[1] from the Holman Bible Dictionary

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