KINDNESS AFOREHAND

JANUARY 8

There came a
woman having an alabaster box of ointment of spikenard very precious … and poured it on his head. (Mark 14:3)
 
Don’t keep the alabaster box of your love sealed up until your friends are dead! Break It open now, pour it out, and fill their lives with joy while you can. Those words of kindness you’ve thought of saying a thousand times-say them now, while their ears can hear them and their hearts can still be touched. Those flowers you keep meaning to send-do it this week and brighten their home before they leave it!
 
It’s amazing! The crowd in the house saw her do it, argued about it, and missed the whole point. That very night, following this woman’s act of devotion, Judas would go out and set wheels in motion that would lead Jesus to the Cross. Somehow she sensed that time and opportunity were running out. If she was ever going to show Him her love, this was it! Listen to what Jesus said: “She is come aforehand to anoint my body” (Mark 14:8). There it is-kindness aforehand.
 
Joseph of Arimathea brought 100 pounds of precious ointment to anoint Jesus after He was dead, but not a word of praise is spoken about his “post-mortem” kindness. She brought only one pound of ointment and poured it on Him-while He was still living-and Jesus said, “Wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her” (Mark 14:9 NIV). Are you getting the message?
 
IF MY FRIENDS HAVE ANY ALABASTER BOXES LAID AWAY FOR ME, I WOULD RATHER THEY BRING THEM OUT NOW.
 

 

​A nervous taxpayer was unhappily conversing with the IRS auditor who had come to review his records. At one point the auditor exclaimed, “We feel it is a great privilege to be allowed to live and work in the USA. As a citizen you have an obligation to pay taxes, and we expect you to eagerly pay them with a smile.” “Thank God,” returned the taxpayer. “I thought you were going to want cash.” .
..

  ​Instructor: “Isn’t it remarkable how quickly the kids learn to drive the car?”Parent: “Yes, especially considering how slowly they catch on to running the lawnmower and vacuum cleaner.” …



CORRECTED BUT NOT DISCARDED

JANUARY 7

Out of weakness were made strong … (Hebrews 11:34)
 
The heroes of the Bible were powerful, but not perfect. They were corrected but not discarded, and their human frailties encourage the rest of us that God can use us, too. The contrast between God and the people He uses reminds us who is to be worshiped.
 
Paul readily admitted he fell far short of his goal. Yet, the light of revelation that shone from his earthen vessel illuminates our walk today. A perfect word from imperfect vessels-that’s “the high calling of God,” and it’s through ordinary people like you and me that He chooses to bring it. Amazing!
 
In Hebrews 11, God lists some of His heroes. But notice what He said about them: “Out of weakness were made strong.” They were strengthened through struggle, and that’s still God’s way. Look at them, but don’t judge them because of a weak moment-judge them on the entirety of their lives! The dents in their armor didn’t affect their performance on the battlefield. They’re remembered for their faith-not their flawlessness!
 
Samson shone on the battlefield, but struggled in the bedroom. Samuel judged the sins of Eli’s children, but failed to keep his own sons on the right track. You ask, “Why does God use such people?”
 
For three reasons:
 
(1) Because His strength is made perfect in our weakness (see 2 Corinthians 12:9).
 
(2) Because our limitations are not His (see Ephesians 3:20).
 
(3) Because He uses what’s available (see 1 Corinthians 1:27).

   NOW, AREN’T YOU GLAD FOR THAT TODAY?  

Next,” the conference emcee announced, “we have the chief of the Minnesota State Patrol, Roger Ledding, who is here with his lovely wife, Beverly.”
 
The chief took his place at the lectern. “I’m a little nervous,” he began, “getting up before this distinguished audience and speaking today. But not nearly as nervous as I will be tonight when I must go home with my wife, Audrey, and explain Beverly to her!”
 

 

A friend was lecturing in Latin America. He was going to use a translator, but to identify with his audience, he wanted to begin his talk by saying in Spanish, “Good evening, ladies and gentlemen.” He arrived at the auditorium a little early and realized he did not know the Spanish words for ladies and gentlemen. Being rather resourceful, he went to the part of the building where the restrooms were, looked at the signs on the two doors, and memorized those two words.
 
When the audience arrived and he was introduced, he stood up and said in Spanish, “Good evening, ladies and gentlemen.”
 
The audience was shocked. He didn’t know whether he had offended them or perhaps they hadn’t heard him or understood him. So he decided to repeat it. Again in Spanish he said, “Good evening, ladies and gentlemen.”
 
One person in the audience began to snicker. Pretty soon the entire audience was laughing. Finally, someone told him that he had said, “Good evening, bathrooms and broom closets!”
 

   



Too Much to Lose

JANUARY 4
 
Then Jesus … said unto him … Take up the cross, and follow me. And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions. (Mark 10:21-22)
 
This man really wanted to follow Jesus, but he had too much to lose. He could have been another John or Mark, but instead that’s the last we ever hear about him, because he had become accustomed to a life of privilege and couldn’t live with less.
 
Imagine him years later as an old man. His grandson climbs up on his lap and says, “Granddad, who was the greatest man you ever met?” Without hesitating, he replies, ”Jesus!” ”What made Him so great?” the child asks. He replies, “Son, there’s never been anyone like Him. He healed the sick and even raised the dead. I saw Him do it!” The little fellow says, “Granddad, did He ever talk to you?” “Yes,” he replies. The child asks, “Well, Granddad, what did He say to you?” Looking at the child, he says, “He asked me to follow Him.” Earnest eyes look up at the old man and ask, “Did you do it, Granddad? Did you follow Him?”
 
Fighting back tears of regret, he sets the little fellow down and walks out into the garden of his luxurious home, with the words ringing in his ears, “Did you do it, Granddad? Did you follow Him?”
 
WHEN YOUR LIFE IS OVER, WILL YOU BE ABLE TO LOOK BACK WITH ,JOY AND SAY, “I FOLLOWED ..JESUS”?  WHAT ELSE MATTERS?
 

  A man finally summons the courage to go sky diving for the very first time. The preparation and plane flight go smoothly, but immediately after jumping from the plane, he is unable to get his parachute to deploy. ​As he hurtles towards the earth, he is shocked to see a man rocketing upwards toward him. As they pass in the air, the skydiver yells, “Do you know anything about parachutes?”The second man responds, “No. Do you know anything about gas grills?” …



Never Out of His Sight

JANUARY 1
. . . the eyes of the Lord thy God are always upon [the land], from the beginning of the year even unto the end of the year. (Deuteronomy 11:12)
As you look ahead to another year, God’s Word gives you a glimpse into some of the wonderful things He has in store Listen:  10 For the land you are about to enter and possess is not like the land of Egypt where you have come from, . . . . 11  It is a land of hills and valleys with plenty of rain— 12  a land that the Lord your God personally cares for! His eyes are always upon it, day after day throughout the year!  Deuteronomy 11:10
You are about to enter a year when God promises you everything you need to succeed! No matter what you left behind in the old year ” this new one offers you a fresh start. God says He will not remember your sins and shortcomings (see Isaiah 43:25), so close the’ door and move forward.  
The land ahead is not flat and monotonous. It’s a land of hills and valleys; and you need both! This year you’ll have to climb some mountains, and you’ll need endurance to make it to the top. And when you do, the view will be breathtaking and the rewards wilI be greater than you ever dreamed. You’ll also go through some valleys, and deal with pain and loss, and  there you’ll drink from God’s sweetest streams.
There you’ll understand the words, “He restoreth my soul.” But most importantly, we’re told that “His eyes are always upon it.”
NO MATTER WHAT LIES AHEAD THIS YEAR, HE’LL BE WITH YOU EVERY DAY. NOW, THERE’S TRULY A REASON TO CELEBRATE!  
 
May you find the strength to write, “Who is this?” to all the strange numbers that text you “Happy New Year!” today. Who has time to party on New Year’s Eve? It takes me all evening to set my clocks ahead a year. Melanie White says, “My New Year’s resolution is to eat better, so from now on, I’m going to only date guys who can afford to take me somewhere other than McDonalds.”


DECEMBER 31

A Wise Way

The Wise men made some last minute changes to their plans, as the Holy Spirit impressed on them to leave by “another way”.
 
I do not know how you began this year.  I do not know what snares the devil has thrown across your path.  I do not know what hurts, envying’s and strivings may have hardened your heart and dimmed your true purpose along the way.  But I do know there is one who wants to impress you to leave this year by “another way”  — one of love, and forgiveness and forgetfulness.
 
Determine to take a different direction this coming year.  Determine to walk a new path, the one directed by the Holy Spirit.  Don’t let the devil take you down the same road you started out on last year.
 
Take this final week before the close of the year to allow the Holy Spirit to cleanse your heart and prepare you for next year’s journey – on a path safe from the devil’s pitfalls.
 

                — Rod Parsley



DECEMBER 28

Share with the Lord s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. -Romans 12:13 (NIV)
 
I knew what I should do. Invite the earful of my girlfriends to my home for a spur-of-the-moment lunch.
 
But that wasn’t me. I planned luncheons for a long, thoughtful time, and when my guests arrived, everyone exclaimed, “Oh my!” I love to set tables with themes, display pretty bouquets of flowers, and serve food that’s color-coordinated.
 
Several of us from my prayer group had been to visit Evelyn, who was temporarily a shut-in. We usually met across town at Freidas house. But now, leaving Evelyn’s, we were only five minutes from my home.
 
As we stopped for gas, I knew everyone was hungry, But my kitchen and my house weren’t in shape for company.
 
Ask them anyway. The thought was gentle and real.
 
“Would y’ all like to swing by my house and we can eat whatever we can find? I’m going to have to sit down when we get there. But you can raid the kitchen …. “
 
They didn’t even let me finish before I heard a chorus of yesses. I’d halfway hoped they wouldn’t accept.
 
Inside, I instantly found my recliner in the living room and plopped down. I heard them exclaiming over what they’d found.
 
“Pimento cheese!” someone cheered.
 
‘I’ll get the pop,” Missy said. “The sandwich meat is in the drawer.”
 
“I have the pickles!” Jill exclaimed.
 
 

My cats joined in, meowing loudly. My friends sounded almost like my children had so long ago-laughing, asking, volunteering.

I shut my eyes, smiling at the spontaneous fun.
 
Oh, my Father, am I really practicing hospitality at last?
 
-Marion Bond West
 
Digging Deeper: Acts 2:44-45, 28:7; 1 Peter 4:9
 
DAILY GUIDEPOSTS
 

 

It Takes A Lifetime
 
It takes a lifetime to learn how to live
 
How to share and how to give
 
How to face tragedy that comes your way
 
How to find courage to face each new day
 
How to smile when your heart is sore
 
How to go on when you can take no more
 
How to laugh when you want to cry
 
How to be brave when you have to say goodbye
 
How to still love when your loss is so great
 
How to forgive when your urge is to hate
 
How to be sure that GOD is really there
 
How to Find Him, Seek Him in Prayer
 

–Author unknown



DECEMBER 27

They asked, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We’ve seen his star in the east, and we’ve come to honor him. “-Matthew 2:2 (CEB)

 

By some miracle almost all twenty-four of us were there. The only one we were missing was Tim (off doing mission work in Africa).
 
Otherwise, all four generations were represented at Mom’s house on Christmas Day: Mom, my brother, my two sisters, our spouses, our children, my sister’s grandchildren. “Picture time!” someone shouted. “We’ve got to document this.”
 
We trooped outside, gathering on Mom’s front porch. The question was: Who would take this photo? We all needed to be in it. “Maybe one of the neighbors.” My older sister, Gioia, dashed across the street and knocked on a door. Mom had only lived in this house for a little while so we didn’t really know the neighbors, but I could imagine exactly what Gioia said: “I hate to interrupt your Christmas, but if one of you could spare a few moments, we need someone to take our picture …. “
 
Next thing we knew, a fellow with just the right camera equipment was heading toward us. Carol took over for a moment as art director. “The kids in front, some of you should sit on the step, Peggy, you can stand …. ” No telling how long the patience of the under-four set would last.
 
“Smile,” someone said. We smiled while Mom’s neighbor clicked , away. This was a moment to treasure. Then we broke up and went back inside for dinner. About an hour later there was a knock at the door. Mom’s neighbor. Not only had he made a disc with all the good shots on it, but he’d also framed the best print.
 
“You know, I have the nicest neighbors,” Mom said. A gift from a neighbor and a neighbor who was himself a gift.
 
As the wise ones from the East brought gifts to You, we give thanks for the gifts we receive, every one of them a treasure
. -Rick Hamlin
Digging Deeper: Isaiah 9:6; Philippians 2:8-10
 

 

A SHORT HISTORY OF MEDICINE:
 
…….”Doctor, I have an ear ache.”
 
2000 B.C. – “Here, eat this root.”
 
1000 B.C. – “That root is heathen, say this prayer.”
 
1850 A.D. – “That prayer is superstition, drink this potion.”
 
1920 A.D. – “That potion is snake oil, swallow this pill.”
 
1975 A.D. – “That pill is ineffective, take this antibiotic.”
 

2001 A.D. – “That antibiotic is artificial. Here, eat this root!”



DECEMBER 25

The People who walked in darkness have seen a great light. -Isaiah 9:2 (ESV)
 
It was a cool, fresh morning, still dark. I was outside running. My doctor had told me I was further along the road to healing and I could try running again. This was a gift beyond compare, as if Christmas had been restored to me.
 
Christmas is normally my favorite time of year. I love the solemnity of Advent, the cold weather, the wreath-making, the gift-giving, the carol-singing. This year, I had dreaded spending it in pain and debility. Now I could live once more in hope.
 
I drank in the quiet of the Central Park bridle trail, the soft scuff of my feet in the dirt, a gentle sighing through the trees. All of this was the voice of God, and once again I could hear it. I wanted to sing for joy!
 
Is that what the shepherds felt like when they reached the stable and peeked inside to see the Baby Whom the angel had told them about?
 
Did the three kings cast aside their solemnity and sing hallelujah when their long journey ended and they bowed down before the King of the creation I now ran through? Did they shout thanks to the star that had guided them, just as I now glanced upward to see if any stars were visible, a rarity in New York City? (Yes, one or two!)
 
Christmas is a time for gifts. But, really, Christmas itself is the gift, the never-failing reminder that, no matter what, God is with us every step of our journey
 
Lord, You are the great light shining in darkness. Today I will celebrate Your wondrous, abiding presence. – Jim Hinch
 
Digging Deeper: Psalm 107:19-21; Isaiah 41:10; Philippians 4:19
 

  (Mat 1:18-25 NKJV)  Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. {19} Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. {20} But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. {21} “And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.” {22} So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: {23} “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.” {24} Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, {25} and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name JESUS. {2:1}Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, {2} saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.” {3} When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. {4} And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. {5} So they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet: {6} ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, Are not the least among the rulers of Judah; For out of you shall come a Ruler Who will shepherd My people Israel.'” {7} Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared. {8} And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also.”  {9} When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was. {10} When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. {11} And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. {12} Then, being divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed for their own country another way.



DECEMBER 24

LIGHT IN OUR DARKNESS: God with Us
 
“Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel, ” which means, “God is with us.” -Matthew 1 :23 (NRSV)
 
Every year we put up two Advent calendars. The old one was made by my aunt when I was a baby. It’s a felt Christmas tree on felt backing, with tiny stuffed felt ornaments hanging from brass bead sewn into the tree. At the top goes an angel on December 24. Traditionally, the Santa Claus ornament gets hung second to last just below the angel.
 
As children, my brother and I fought over who got to hang Santa, which we considered more exciting than the angel. My kids get into the same argument, with each one gauging how to pace his or her turn hanging ornaments in order to end up with Santa.
 
The new calendar is sent each year by my mother-in-law. It’s a thin cardboard Nativity scene with tiny cutout windows to be opened each day. Inside are pictures and a Bible quote.
 
I used to prefer the felt calendar because it was from my childhood.
 
But now I like both because they disclose different gifts each day, slowly and deliberately, just like Advent.
 
The felt ornaments are ingenious – a toy soldier, an owl, some presents wrapped in glittery bows, a reindeer. I picture my aunt carefully stuffing and sewing each one. Her love and the combined love of our family linger on the tree.
 
But the cardboard calendar tells the story of Jesus. The Bible verses lead us ever closer to that moment when God’s Son is born in a stable. The last window shows Him there, lit by a star, ready to begin His life that will change the world. It’s the moment the kids and I have been waiting for.
 
Lord, I will consider each day its own facet of the gift of Your incarnation. – Jim Hinch
Digging Deeper: John 1:14; Hebrews 1:2-3
 
DAILY GUIDEPOSTS
 

 

The Police Report
 
Whereas, on or about the night prior to Christmas, there did occur at a certain improved piece of real property (hereinafter “the House”)  a general lack of stirring by all creatures therein, including, but not limited to a mouse.
 
 A variety of foot apparel, e.g. stocking, socks, etc., had been affixed by and around the chimney in said House in the hope and/or belief that St. Nick a/k/a/ St. Nicholas a/k/a/ Santa Claus (hereinafter “Claus”) would arrive at sometime thereafter.
 
The minor residents, i.e. the children, of the aforementioned House were located in their individual beds and were engaged in nocturnal hallucinations, i.e. dreams, wherein vision of confectionery treats, including, but not limited to, candies, nuts and/or sugar plums, did dance, cavort and otherwise appear in said dreams.
 
Whereupon the party of the first part (sometimes hereinafter referred to as “I”), being the joint-owner in fee simple of the House with the parts of the second part (hereinafter “Mamma”), and said Mamma had retired for a sustained period of sleep. (At such time, the parties were clad in various forms of headgear, e.g. kerchief and cap.)
 
 
Suddenly, and without prior notice or warning, there did occur upon the unimproved real property adjacent and appurtent to said House, i.e. the lawn, a certain disruption of unknown nature,
 
cause and/or circumstance. The party of the first part did immediately rush to a window in the House to investigate the cause of such disturbance.
 
At that time, the party of the first part did observe, with some degree of wonder and/or disbelief, a miniature sleigh (hereinafter “the Vehicle”) being pulled and/or drawn very rapidly through the air by approximately eight (8) reindeer. The driver of the Vehicle appeared to be and in fact was, the previously referenced Claus.
 
Said Claus was providing specific direction, instruction and guidance to the approximately eight (8) reindeer and specifically indentified the animal co-conspirators by name: Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner and Blitzen (hereinafter “the Deer”). (Upon information and belief, it is further asserted that an additional co-conspirator named “Rudolph”may have been involved.)
 
The party of the first part witnessed Claus, the Vehicle and the Deer intentionally and willfully trespass upon the roofs of several residences located adjacent to and in the vicinity of the House, and noted that the Vehicle was heavily laden with packages, toys and other items of unknown origin or nature. Suddenly, without prior invitation or permission, either express or implied, the Vehicle arrived at the House, and Claus entered said House via the chimney.
 
Said Claus was clad in a red fur suit, which was partially covered with residue from the chimney, and he carried a large sack containing a portion of the aforementioned packages, toys, and other unknown items. He was smoking what appeared to be tobacco in a small pipe in blatant violation of local ordinances and health regulations.
 
Claus did not speak, but immediately began to fill the stocking of the minor children, which hung adjacent to the chimney, with toys and other small gifts. (Said items did not, however, constitute “gifts” to said minor pursuant to the applicable provisions of the U.S. Tax Code.)
 
Upon completion of such task, Claus touched the side of his nose and flew, rose and/or ascended up the chimney of the House to the roof where the Vehicle and Deer waited and/or served as “lookouts.” Claus immediately departed for an unknown destination.  
 
However, prior to the departure of the Vehicle, Deer and Claus from said House, the party of the first part did hear Claus state and/or exclaim:
 

“Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!” Or words to that effect.



FRIDAY, DECEMBER 21

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are, -1 John 3:1 (ESV)
 
So what would you like for Christmas?” my father-in-law asked my  seven-year-old son, Isaiah. “Come tell me.”
 
My little boy stood beside his grandfather’s chair. He smiled at grandpa and then glanced at his own daddy and me. “Well, I want a runner sled,” he said. “More than anything. But I’m not sure it’s okay.”
 
He looked down and scuffed his wool-clad toes over the carpet. We’d been to the hardware store the day before, and Isaiah had fallen for an old-fashioned wooden sled with metal runners. His daddy said it was an accident waiting to happen. But Grandpa’s grin stretched wide. He leaned close to my son. “I knew a little boy who used to have one,” he whispered. “In fact, that little boy’s sled is still in the garage.”
 
Isaiah’s green eyes went round. His daddy, across the room, smiled in surprise.
 
“If it’s okay, we’ll go get it,” Grandpa said.
 
My husband, Lonny, nodded. Grandpa started to push up from the chair. But Isaiah stood still. “Grandpa, you’ve kept that sled a long time,” he said. “Are you sure you want to give it to me?”
 
My father-in-law reached out and pulled Isaiah to his lap. His arms wrapped around my son. Well, you’re my grandson, he said.            “Aren’t ya?”
 
Isaiah, his brothers, Lonny, and I have spent many sunlit winter afternoons sledding at the park near our home. But even more than flying down that snow-covered hill, cheeks stained red and smiles shining from the soul, Isaiah loves to tell the story of the day the sled became his.
 
“And then Grandpa sat me on his lap,” he says. “And he said, ‘You belong to me.
 
Lord, You created us to belong. Thank You that I am Yours. Amen.
 
-Shawnelle Eliasen
 
Digging Deeper: Psalm 100:3; Isaiah 43:1; Romans 14:8
 
DAILY GUIDEPOSTS
 

 

Q: What was so good about the neurotic doll the girl was given for Christmas?
 
A: It was wound up already.
 

 

Santa goes up and down so many chimneys that he’s thinking of getting a yearly flue shot?
 

 

A man went to his psychiatrist and said,
 
“What’s wrong with me? I’m afraid of Santa.”
 

The psychiatrist said, “You must be Claustrofobic




 

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