By Peggy Lively

With the Christmas season upon us, gift buying and giving is all around us. It really is a fun and festive time of year, but so often we lose sight of the One we are celebrating. The last couple of years as I have begun my gift buying, I have really desired to give a gift to Jesus. After all, it is His birthday we are celebrating.

As I have pondered, “What can I give Him?” this year, my desire is to share the good news of His grace and the gift of salvation with those at both of my work places. So I have decided to give devotional books to all those that I work with. I want to share His love with them; this is my gift to Him this season.

Pray about what you can give to Jesus as we celebrate Him. Maybe it is to provide for a needy family, or to give a financial gift to a homeless ministry. Maybe it is to serve in your church, or go visit someone in prison or a nursing home. Jesus reminds us that as we minister to others, we are ministering to Him: “’For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited Me in, I needed clothes and you clothed Me, I was sick and you looked after Me, I was in prison and you came to visit Me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for Me.’” (Matthew 25:35-40)

Or maybe you have never fully surrendered your heart to the Lord, and this Christmas He is prompting you to do so. Your gift to Him may be to give Him your heart.

“What can I give Him, poor as I am?

If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;

If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;

Yet what I can I give Him: give Him my heart.”

In the Bleak Midwinter, by Christina Rossetti

As a visual reminder to keep Jesus first this season, when you make your gift-giving list, write His name at the top of your list. What can you give Him?



By Peggy Lively

One day I was walking along the Trinity River in Fort Worth, Texas and it was extremely windy. My hair was continually blowing in my face, and I could feel the wind’s resistance against my body as I walked. Not only did I feel the effects of the wind, but I could also see how it affected the water in the river. When the wind blew, it would push a line of ripples directly across the river. And with each gust of wind, a new group of ripples raced across the surface of the water. It was so smooth and beautiful. It looked as if some unseen hand was creating them and giving them their direction. It is truly a natural wonder to see and feel the effects of the wind, but not be able to see the wind itself.

It is the same way with the Holy Spirit. It is a spiritual wonder to see and feel the effects of the Spirit in our lives and around us, but not be able to see the Spirit himself. The term ‘spirit’ translates Hebrew (ruach) and Greek (pneuma) words denoting ‘wind,’ ‘breath,’ and, by extension, a life-giving element. With the adjective ‘holy,’ the reference is to the divine spirit, i.e., the Spirit of God. [1][1]

The Holy Spirit is compared many times in scripture to the presence and power of the wind. On the day of Pentecost, “Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting…All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:2, 4) Jesus also explained to Nicodemus that, “The wind blows where it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8) We cannot explain how someone is “born of the Spirit” or led by the Spirit, but we can see the evidence of the Spirit in a changed heart and a transformed life.

One of the ways we see the effects of the Spirit is by the fruit of the Spirit. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23) These fruit are the evidence that the Spirit is present and active in our lives. By them, we become a “breath of fresh air,” a gentle brushing of the Spirit.

So be reminded today that the Holy Spirit is alive and active in us. Let us not quench or grieve His Spirit (Ephesians 4:30, I Thessalonians 5:19), but let us live by the Spirit and keep in step with the Spirit. (Galatians 5:25) And when you feel the wind blowing on your face, and you see the trees swaying in the wind, thank God for His presence. Thank Him for the gift of the Holy Spirit whom He has given us.

[1][1]Achtemeier, Paul J. ; Harper & Row, Publishers ; Society of Biblical Literature: Harper’s Bible Dictionary. 1st ed. San Francisco : Harper & Row, 1985, S. 401



By Peggy Lively

In Psalm 119, David mentions over and over his love for God’s Word and what it means to him

It is his delight and life: “If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction. I will never forget your precepts, for by them you have preserved my life.“ (Psalm 119:92-93)

It is sweet to him: “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (Psalm 119:103)

It is a light for him: “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.” (Psalm 119:105)

It is valuable to him: “Because I love your commands more than gold, more than pure gold, and because I consider all your precepts right, I hate every wrong path.” (Psalm 119:127-128)

It gives him direction: “Direct my footsteps according to your word; let no sin rule over me.” (Psalm 119:133)

It is his hope: “You are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in your word.” (Psalm 119:114) I rise before dawn and cry for help; I have put my hope in your word. My eyes stay open through the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promises. (Psalm 119:147-148)

What is God’s Word to you? Do you love it? Is it valuable and sweet to you? Do you look to it for direction and hope?

I pray that his Word will be your delight, that you will find the treasure hidden in it and let it come alive in your life.

Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly. (Colossians 3:16)



By Peggy Lively

I heard a sermon last week by John Durham about the life of David. He read from II Samuel 6 where David is bringing the ark of God back to Jerusalem: “Wearing a linen ephod, David was dancing before the Lord with all his might, while he and all Israel were bringing up the ark of the Lord with shouts and the sound of trumpets.” (verses 14-16) His wife Michal saw this and was embarrassed by his behavior. When he returns, Michal confronts him about his actions and his reputation as King. David responds to her accusations by saying, “It was before the Lord, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the Lord’s people Israel—I will celebrate before the Lord.” (II Samuel 16:21)

Durham pointed out with this response that, “David had a joy that made him forget about himself. He threw away image management.” I love the way he phrased this because so many times we are unintentionally focused on ourselves: worried about how we look, how people perceive us, and what they think about us. David was so filled with the joy of the presence of the Lord that he totally forgot about himself. Durham also pointed out that, “Realizing we are chosen by God brings liberating joy.” David pointed this out in his response to Michal in verse 21: “It was before the Lord who chose me.” He recognizes his value, his worth and the joy that comes from knowing he is chosen by God.

If you have accepted Jesus as your Savior and Lord, you too are chosen by God. Let this knowledge fill you with liberating joy so that you can forget about yourself.

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (I Peter 2:9)



Sep

24

By Peggy Lively

Jesus performed two miracles in the book of Mark that have very similar circumstances. The more I looked at them the more interesting it became to me. In Mark 7, He heals a deaf and mute man, and in Mark 8 He heals a blind man. There are four common things that happen in both of these miracles.

1. Jesus gets the one who needs healing alone:

“Jesus took him aside, away from the crowd.” (Mark 7:33)

“He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village.” (Mark 8:23)

2. Jesus spits:

“Then He spit.” (Mark 7:33)

“He spit on the man’s eyes.” (Mark 8:23)

3. Jesus physically touches the men where they need healing:

“Jesus put His fingers into the man’s ears. Then He spit and touched the man’s tongue.” (Mark 7:33)

“When He had spit on the man’s eyes and put His hands on him, Jesus asked, ‘Do you see anything?'” (Mark 8:23) And again in Mark 8:25, “Once more Jesus put His hands on the man’s eyes.”

4. Things are opened and healing takes place:

“Jesus looked up to Heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, ‘Ephphatha!’ (which means ‘Be opened!’). The man’s ears were opened, his tongue was loosened and he began to speak plainly.” (Mark 7:34-35)

“Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.” (Mark 8:25)

Isn’t that fascinating? It’s so interesting to me to see the similarities in these miracles and see how Jesus chose to heal them. He pulls the individual aside, away from the crowd to give them His focus and personal attention. Why He chooses to spit, I’m really not sure. There are some studies that show human saliva has healing qualities, like speeding up wound healing. But that hardly seems to be the reason. I think it tends to be more along the lines of Jesus using the base things of this world to do the miraculous. He often chooses to use the weak and lowly things: “God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. (I Corinthians 1:27-29) Then He touches them, and there is healing as He places His hands on their eyes, ears and tongue. He could have just spoken their healing, but He made it more personal and compassionate by physically touching them. Then He speaks with authority and power when He says, “Ephphatha!.” Be opened! And they are.

I’m so thankful that Jesus still opens today. He opens blind eyes to see His grace; He opens deaf ears to hear His Truth, and opens prison doors to set sinners free. Seek Him and trust Him to open the areas in your life that need healing.

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” (Matthew 7:7)

 



By Peggy Lively

As I read my devotional books one morning recently, I heard Jesus ask the same question from two different books and two different passages of scripture. First I read Matthew 20:32-34 from the “Daily Light” devotional: Jesus stopped and called them. “What do you want me to do for you?” He asked. “Lord,” they answered, “we want our sight.” Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed Him. Then right after that I read about Bartimaeus in Mark 10:49-52 from “Our Daily Bread:” Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus. “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him. The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.” “Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.

“What do you want me to do for you?” This was the question Jesus asked. As I read these two passages, I felt as if I was sitting by the roadside like these blind men and Jesus stopped, took my face in His hands and asked, “What do you want me to do for you?” It became a very personal encounter as I shared my heart with Him.

Jesus knew the blind men wanted to see; the need seems obvious. And Jesus already knows what I’d like for Him to do for me. Matthew 6:8 says, “Your Father knows what you need before you ask Him,” but in compassion He still asks. When we recognize our own need and cry out to Him for help, He responds.

What do you want Him to do for you? Call upon His name and be specific with your need and request. He cares for you.

“The Lord is near to all who call on Him, to all who call on Him in truth. He fulfills the desires of those who fear Him; He hears their cry and saves them.” (Psalm 145:18-19)



By Peggy Lively

In Luke 24, Jesus had risen from the dead and decided to join a couple of men as they walked along the road to Emmaus. They were discussing Jesus’s death and, “As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus Himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing Him. He asked them, ‘What are you discussing together as you walk along?’” (verses 15-17) They can’t believe this man doesn’t know what’s been going on and, “One of them, named Cleopas, asked Him, ‘Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?’” And in verse 19, Jesus says, “What things?”

Clearly Jesus knew what they were talking about and what had gone on in the last few days, but He acted like He didn’t. This is a little bit humorous to me, but why do you think He did this? He was engaging them in a personal conversation, and through this He was able to hear where their hearts were, even though He already knew. It seems that they knew the story and knew the facts, but they didn’t believe.

They explain to Jesus “what things” in the following verses: “About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed Him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified Him; but we had hoped that He was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said He was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.” These men told the facts of the story but said “we had hoped.” It seems they gave up hope quickly.

As they continued down the road and approached the village of Emmaus, “Jesus acted as if He was going further.” Again, Jesus is pretending, acting like He’s going further, “But they urged him strongly, ‘Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.’ So He went in to stay with them.” Jesus had engaged them in personal conversation and wanted them to invite Him into their lives.

So even though Jesus knew everything, He acted like He didn’t so that He could hear their hearts and their story. Then He acted like He was going further so that they would “urge Him strongly” to stay, invite Him in, and believe. “Then their eyes were opened and they recognized Him,” (verse 31) then they declared, “It is true! The Lord has risen.”

Even though Jesus is all-knowing, He is a personal Savior. He wants to hear your heart and your story, and He also desires for you to invite Him in and believe in Him.

“I was a stranger and you invited me in.” (Matthew 25:35)



By Peggy Lively

Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still and know that I am God.”(NIV) The New American Standard Version reads this way, “Cease striving and know that I am God.” Even though these versions are similar, for me, they have very different meanings. I love to be still before the Lord. My still, quiet, solitude time before Him every morning is my favorite part of the day. But as a mother of four with two jobs as a nurse, I am also very good at striving. When I see a problem that needs to be solved, or a task that needs to be accomplished, I go to work. So it is easy for me to be still, but hard for me to cease striving.

In my life right now there is a situation that desperately needs to change. So I have gone to work, striving to make it happen. However, the Lord has spoken to my heart several times through this verse, reminding me to cease striving and to know and trust Him. I heard His gentle reminder, and ceased striving in this particular area for about a month. Then I slowly found myself starting to strive again. It has been so much harder than I thought it would be to really let it go, to do nothing, and to trust the situation into God’s hands. Through my striving, I want to fix the problem and make something happen, but He keeps reminding me to surrender control to Him and trust that He is God.

To “cease striving” doesn’t mean that we sit around on our couch all day and do nothing, but that we surrender our lives to God trusting Him to lead and guide us into His will for our lives. Instead of trying to manipulate or force situations, seek Him diligently through His Word and prayer; be still and trust Him to open and close doors according to His will for your life.

He continues to gently remind me, “Cease striving, and know that I am God.”



By Peggy Lively

Jesus was very proficient and intentional about teaching lessons through parables. He expounded on spiritual truths using very common language so that everyone could understand. In the book of Matthew, Jesus explains over and and over again what the kingdom of Heaven is like. He describes it in so many different ways, that it seems He is wanting to relate this teaching in a personal way for all walks of life. Examine the many ways He describes the kingdom of Heaven:

Matthew 13:24- “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field.”

Matthew 13:31– “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field.”

Matthew 13:33- “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough.”

Matthew 13:44– “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field.”

Matthew 13:45- “The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls.”

Matthew 13:47– “The kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish.”

Matthew 18:23– “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants.”

Matthew 20:1– “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard.”

Matthew 22:2– “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son.”

Jesus relates to farmers, women, bakers, merchants, fishermen, Kings, servants, landowners, and field laborers. The underlying theme in them all is that Heaven is a gift, a treasure that far exceeds any Earthly value. It is received by grace alone, and not by works we have done to earn or deserve it. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)

If you want to study God’s word further, read through these verses and parables in Matthew and ask Him to speak to you personally about what the kingdom of Heaven is like.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in Heaven for you.” (I Peter 1:3-4)



Jun

17

By Peggy Lively

Lately as I go on my morning walks through the neighborhood, I am surrounded by a loud chorus. It is the chirping of thousands of locusts. So as I walked, I began to think about all the times in the Bible that locusts are mentioned. When I came home and looked it up, I was surprised at the number of scripture passages that talk about locusts. I was aware of several of them, but found twenty-two different places where locusts are mentioned. Most of the passages talk about the incredible destruction caused by locusts, but God also includes that there is often a bigger purpose for the destruction.

We are all probably most familiar with the locust plague that God sent through Moses on the Egyptians. (Exodus 10:1-10) God was trying to humble Pharaoh’s hard heart so that He would let the Israelites go. “So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said to him, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of the Hebrews, says: ‘How long will you refuse to humble yourself before me? Let my people go, so that they may worship me. If you refuse to let them go, I will bring locusts into your country tomorrow. They will cover the face of the ground so that it cannot be seen. They will devour what little you have left after the hail, including every tree that is growing in your fields.'” (Exodus 10:3-5) God had a purpose and message for Pharaoh, but He also had a lesson for the Israelites: “Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Go to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the hearts of his officials so that I may perform these signs of mine among them that you may tell your children and grandchildren how I dealt harshly with the Egyptians and how I performed my signs among them, and that you may know that I am the Lord.” (Exodus 10:1-3) God was performing these miracles and building a generation of believers among the Israelites. He wanted them to tell their children and grandchildren about these miracles so that they “may know that I am the Lord.”

There is also a place in Scripture where God’s people are the recipient of the locusts’ destruction. Joel warns Judah of God’s judgment because of their sins and urges them to turn back to God. “Hear this, you elders; listen, all who live in the land. Has anything like this ever happened in your days or in the days of your ancestors? Tell it to your children, and let your children tell it to their children, and their children to the next generation. What the locust swarm has left the great locusts have eaten; what the great locusts have left the young locusts have eaten; what the young locusts have left other locusts have eaten.” (Joel 1:2-4) The purpose of the plague was repentance, so that the people would turn away from their sins and turn back to God. The Lord clearly states this in Amos 4:9, “‘Many times I struck your gardens and vineyards, destroying them with blight and mildew. Locusts devoured your fig and olive trees, yet you have not returned to me,’ declares the Lord.” God’s desire was for His people to return to Him, and again to tell the generations to come about His power and faithfulness.

Even though I hear them, I don’t see the destruction of locusts in my neighborhood. But I have seen destruction in my life and in my family’s through difficult circumstances. What are the “locusts” in your life that have stolen so much from you, and caused so much destruction? Is it cancer, an addiction, an affair, a divorce, being the victim of identity or monetary theft, bitterness, unforgiveness, a tragic death?

I can’t tell you God’s purpose in the midst of your plague, but trust that He has one. Repent if you need to, return to Him, and find Him faithful. Then tell your children and your grandchildren of the amazing power and faithfulness​ of God through it all. I pray that as you do, He will restore to you what the “locusts” have destroyed.

“I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten—the great locust and the young locust, the other locusts and the locust swarm— my great army that I sent among you. You will have plenty to eat, until you are full, and you will praise the name of the Lord your God, who has worked wonders for you.” (Joel 2:25-26)



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