12 Days of Christmas, Coming Soon!

Well, it’s almost here.  Christmas is just around the corner and for many of us that sends us into a state of panic.  There have been many years I have ruined Christmas for myself (and sometimes my husband!) by allowing the stress of all the urgent things overcome the beauty of the important things.  I don’t want to do that this year and I expect you don’t want to either.  So, I was thinking that maybe we could study the story together.  You know the story–the one that changed the world.  The story that changed MY world and continues to do so each year.  The greatest story ever told.  The story of Jesus.  Let’s savor that story.  My 12 Days of Christmas Devo starts this Thursday.  Join me and invite a friend!

Update:  This Christmas devotional was originally released four years ago.  I will re-post with occasional updates with the hopes that we once again can make the most of this blessed season.  Merry, merry Christmas to you and yours!

12 Days of Christmas


Thoroughly Equipped: Bible Reading Schedule for November

Hello, my friends!  Below you will find the schedule for our Bible Reading for November.  Can you believe that we are almost finished reading through the entire Bible?!  Stay the course.  You may not understand all you are reading (warning:  most of the month we will be reading in Ezekiel!), but each verse is a seed dropped into your spirit.  It will grow and one day be harvested in understanding.  Hang in there with me!

November 1:  Ezekiel 1:1-3:15, Hebrews 3:1-19, Psalm 104:1-23, Proverbs 26:24-26.

November 2:  Ezekiel 3:16-6:14, Hebrews 4:1-16, Psalm 104:24-35, Proverbs 26:27.

November 3:  Ezekiel 7:1-9:11, Hebrews 5:1-14, Psalm 105:1-15, Proverbs 26:28.

November 4:  Ezekiel 10:1-11:25, Hebrews 6:1-20, Psalm 105:16-36, Proverbs 27:1-2.

November 5:  Ezekiel 12:1-14:11, Hebrews 7:1-17, Psalm 105:37-45, Proverbs 27:3.

November 6:  Ezekiel 14:12-16:41, Hebrews 7:18-28, Psalm 106:1-12, Proverbs27:4-6.

November 7:  Ezekiel 16:42-17:24, Hebrews 8:1-13, Psalm 106:13-31, Proverbs 27:7-9.

November 8:  Ezekiel 18:1-19:14, Hebrews 9:1-10, Psalm 106:32-48, Proverbs 27:10.

November 9:  Ezekiel 20:1-49, Hebrews 11-28, Psalm 107:1-43, Proverbs 27:11.

November 10:  Ezekiel 21:1-22:31, Hebrews 10:1-17, Psalm 108:1-13, Proverbs 27:12.

November 11:  Ezekiel 23:1-49, Hebrews 10:18-39, Psalm 109:1-31, Proverbs 27:13.

November 12:  Ezekiel 24:1-26:21, Hebrews 11:1-16, Psalm 110:1-7, Proverbs 27:14.

November 13:  Ezekiel 27:1-28:26, Hebrews 11:17-31, Psalm 111:1-10, Proverbs 27:15-16.

November 14:  Ezekiel 29:1-30:26, Hebrews 11:32-12:13, Psalm112:1-10, Proverbs 27:17.

November 15:  Ezekiel 31:1-32:32, Hebrews 12:14-29, Psalm 113:1-114:8, Proverbs 27:18-20.

November 16:  Ezekiel 33:1-34:31, Hebrews 13:1-25, Psalm 115:1-18, Proverbs 27:21-22.

November 17:  Ezekiel 35:1-36:38, James 1:1-18, Psalm 116:1-19, Proverbs 27:23-27.

November 18:  Ezekiel 37:1-38:23, James 1:19-2:17, Psalm117:1-2, Proverbs 28:1.

November 19:  Ezekiel 39:1-40:27, James 2:18-3:18, Psalm 118:1-18, Proverbs 28:2.

November 20:  Ezekiel 40:28-41:26, James 4:1-17, Psalm 118:19-29, Proverbs 28:3-5.

November 21:  Ezekiel 42:1-43:27, James 5:1-20, Psalm 119:1-16, Proverbs 28:6-7.

November 22:  Ezekiel 44:1-45:12, 1Peter 1:1-12, Psalm 119:17-32, Proverbs 28:8-10.

November 23:  Ezekiel 45:13-46:24, 1Peter 1:13-2:10, Psalm 119:33-48, Proverbs 28:11.

November 24:  Ezekiel 47:1-48:35, 1Peter 2:11-3:7, Psalm 119:49-64, Proverbs 28:12-13.

November 25:  Daniel 1:1-2:23, 1Peter 3:8-4:6, Psalm 119:65-80, Proverbs 28:14.

November 26:  Daniel 2:24-3:30, 1Peter 4:7-5:14, Psalm 119:81-96, Proverbs 28:15-16.

November 27:  Daniel 4:1-37, 2Peter 1:1-21, Psalm 119:97-112, Proverbs 28:17-18.

November 28:  Daniel 5:1-31, 2Peter 2:1-22, Psalm 119:113-128, Proverbs 28:19-20.

November 29:  Daniel 6:1-28, 2Peter 3:1-18, Psalm 119:129-152, Proverbs 28:21-22.

November 30:  Daniel 7:1-28, 1John 1:1-10, Psalm 119:153-176, Proverbs 28:23-24.


Thoroughly Equipped: Worthy Words

Today’s reading is Jeremiah 14:11-16:15, 1 Thessalonians 2:9-3:13, Psalm 80:1-19, Proverbs 25:1-5.

We are well into the book of Jeremiah, and I can’t claim to understand it all.  In very simplistic terms, Jeremiah is called by God to speak to God’s people.  He is called to speak difficult words and difficult warnings.  Judgement is coming upon the people and God is yearning for them to repent and return to Him, but He is willing to get their attention with calamity, as well.  In fact, so many warnings have already been spoken, that the next “warning” will be action.  Perhaps this action of calamity will bring the people back to God, thus preventing more calamity.  Today’s passage begins with Jeremiah complaining to God about a different message other “prophets” are telling the people.  And the basic message of those so-called prophets was peace and prosperity.  They were saying only what the people wanted to hear and not only was it not helpful to the people, it was false.  These false messages were going to make the calamity to come even worse.

Next, we see Jeremiah bemoaning his lot.  He cries out to God and God assures him that he will indeed have a covering.  However, being covered from a storm does not mean that we don’t have to endure the discomfort and destruction around us.  Even so, in the midst of it all we can truly say:  It is well with my soul.  It may not be well with my body, with my heart, with my emotions, but it can always be well with my soul.

I had this experience this week:  I clicked on a news report from a respected news outlet.  And oh, how I wish I had not read it.  It stayed with me for days, and even now I wish I didn’t have that in my head.  I was sick with the deeds of one human to another.  I was shocked that such abuse could take place.  I found myself thinking, “At least I am shocked.  At least I am horrified.  At least this has not become so common place that I am no longer affected.”  So, even though this did not have anything to do with me, I still had to struggle with the effects of it, because of the world we live in.  I still experienced the grief of it; and it made me want to run and hide my family from the world.  Yet, even as I thought that, I immediately realized that this is not an option.  We can’t hide away from the dark world, lest it become darker and darker.  We must let our light shine.

And then, we come to the verses that stopped me in my tracks today.

19 Therefore this is what the Lord says:

“If you repent, I will restore you
    that you may serve me;
if you utter worthy, not worthless, words,
    you will be my spokesman.

Jeremiah 15:19

This was spoken to Jeremiah, the godly prophet in the midst of the darkness.  The one trying to do the right thing, listen to God, speak the words of God—he, too, had to repent.  Just because his sin did not have the earthly degree of severity, did not mean it did not have to be attended to.  For truthfully, all sin puts a separation between us and God.  The degree levels are only discernable here on earth.

And then these words:  if you utter worthy, not worthless, words, you will be my spokesman.

Those words got me on my knees.  I cried out to the Lord, saying, “Oh, Lord, forgive me for the worthless words I speak every day.  And please, Lord, put only worthy words on my tongue.”

Worthy words.  How much encouragement and truth we could bestow to others with worthy words.  How much less arguing and bickering would take place if we committed to saying only worthy words.  How many reputations would be intact if we did not attack with gossip, slander, or even truthful words that are still not worthy for us to say about someone to another.  Wouldn’t we be better off to just take those things to the Father, rather than the phone?

I am speaking to myself.  But maybe, just maybe, someone else needed to be reminded of this, too?  Please, friends, let’s together commit to speaking only worthy words that we may each be a spokesman for the Lord.


Thoroughly Equipped: Bible Reading Schedule for October

Hello, my friends!

Well, I am three days behind in posting this.  Actually, I feel like I am about three days behind in just about everything!  I could list the reasons why, however, you are living life just as I am, so I’m sure there is no need to explain.  I hope you are still with me on this!  We only have three more months and we will have read through the entire Bible!  Even if you have gotten off track (as I have this month!) just start back reading!  This is not a challenge to win or lose.  No matter how much you actually read, you will benefit from the living Word–for God’s Word will not return void, but will accomplish that for which it is sent.  So hang in there!  And I will, too!

Blessings to you all!

Sara

October 1:   Isaiah 62:6-65:25, Philippians 2:19-3:4, Psalm 73:1-28, Proverbs 24:13-14

October 2:   Isaiah 66:1-24, Philippians 3:5-21, Psalm 74:1-23, Proverbs 24:15-16

October 3:   Jeremiah 1:1-2:30, Philippians 4:1-23, Psalm 75:1-10, Proverbs 24:17-20

October 4:   Jeremiah 2:31-4:18, Colossians 1:1-17, Psalm 76:1-12, Proverbs 24:21-22

October 5:   Jeremiah 4:19-6:15, Colossians 1:18-2:7, Psalm 77:1-20, Proverbs 24:23-25

October 6:   Jeremiah 6:16-8:7, Colossians 2:8-23, Psalm 78:1-31, Proverbs 24:26

October 7:   Jeremiah 8:8-9:26, Colossians 3:1-17, Psalm 78:32-55, Proverbs 24:27

October 8:   Jeremiah 10:1-11:23, Colossians 3:18-4:18, Psalm 78:56-72, Proverbs 24:28-29

October 9:   Jeremiah 12:1-14:10, 1 Thessalonians 1:1-2:8, Psalm 79:1-13, Proverbs 24:30-34

October 10:  Jeremiah 14:11-16:15, 1 Thessalonians 2:9-3:13, Psalm 80:1-19, Proverbs 25:1-5

October 11:  Jeremiah 16:16-18:23, 1 Thessalonians 4:1-5:3, Psalm81:1-16, Proverbs 25:6-7

October 12:  Jeremiah 19:1-21:14, 1 Thessalonians 5:4-28, Psalm 82:1-8, Proverbs 25:8-10

October 13:  Jeremiah 22:1-23:20, 2 Thessalonians 1:1-12, Psalm 83:1-18, Proverbs 25:11-14

October 14:  Jeremiah 23:21-25:38, 2Thessalonians 2:1-17, Psalm 84:1-12, Proverbs 25:15

October 15:  Jeremiah 26:1-27:22, 2 Thessalonians 3:1-18, Psalm 85:1-13, Proverbs 25:16

October 16:  Jeremiah 28:1-29:32, 1 Timothy1:1-20, Psalm 86:1-17, Proverbs 25:17

October 17:  Jeremiah 30:1-31:26, 1 Timothy 2:1-15, Psalm 87:1-17, Proverbs 25:18-19

October 18:  Jeremiah 31:27-32:44, 1 Timothy 3:1-16, Psalm 88:1-18, Proverbs 25:20-22

October 19:  Jeremiah 33:1-34:22, 1 Timothy 4:1-16, Psalm 89:1-13, Proverbs 25:23-24

October 20:  Jeremiah 35:1-36:32, 1 Timothy 5:1-25, Psalm 89:14-37, Proverbs 25:25-27

October 21:  Jeremiah 37:1-38:28, 1 Timothy 6:1-21, Psalm 89:38-52, Proverbs 25:28

October 22:  Jeremiah 39:1-41:18, 2 Timothy 1:1-18, Psalm 90:1-91:16, Proverbs 26:1-2

October 23:  Jeremiah 42:1-44:23, 2 Timothy 2:1-21, Psalm 92:1-93:5, Proverbs 26:3-5

October 24:  Jeremiah 44:24-47:7, 2 Timothy 2:22-3:17, Psalm 94:1-23, Proverbs 26: 6-8

October 25:  Jeremiah 48:1-49:22, 2 Timothy 4:1-22, Psalm 95:1-96:13, Proverbs 26:9-12

October 26:  Jeremiah 49:23-50:46, Titus 1:1-16, Psalm 97:1-98:9, Proverbs 26:13-16

October 27:  Jeremiah 51:1-53, Titus 2:1-15, Psalm 99:1-9, Proverbs 26:17

October 28:  Jeremiah 51:54-52:34, Titus 3:1-15, Psalm 100:1-5, Proverbs 26:18-19

October 29:  Lamentations 1:1-2:19, Philemon 1:1-25, Psalm 101:1-8, Proverbs 26:20

October 30:  Lamentations 2:20-3:66, Hebrews 1:1-14, Psalm 102:1-28, Proverbs 26:21-22

October 31:  Lamentations 4:1-5:22, Hebrews 2:1-18, Psalm 103: 1-22, Proverbs 26:23


Thoroughly Equipped: Where Does My Help Come From?

Today’s reading is Isaiah 8:1-9:21, 2 Corinthians 12:1-10, Psalm 55:1-23, Proverbs 23:4-5.

Today is September 11.  Let that sink in.  Where were you 16 years ago?  I remember it vividly.  I had gotten a couple of my kids off to school, the rest were playing quietly, so I decided to get a cup of coffee and catch the news on the Today show.  Immediately, I was glued to the television, coffee grew cold, and I sat and wept as it unfolded before me and the rest of the world.  It is a day that those of us who were grown enough to understand will never forget.  Things changed that day—permanently.  There is the undercurrent of knowing that “it” could happen—whatever that “it” is in our imagination.  Before 9/11, I know I for one did not think the “its” of the world could happen—not to my home, not to my state, and surely not to our wonderful country.  But it did.  And we survived.  And whatever “it” is that could happen again, we can survive that, too.  However, the survival in catastrophic events is no longer dependent upon good will, good policies, or even good preparedness.  All those things are great and important.  But that is not what we need to survive—even thrive—after terrible events occur.  We need God.  It is as plain and simple as that.  It is an urgent message, a timely message.  I do not post this to be all doom and gloom.  I don’t say these words because I am scared or even because I think something bad will happen—just look around and realize that something bad is already happening every day, whether big or small in the world’s eyes.  So, where will we go?  Where will we turn?  In the floods and storms and earthquakes and tornados and hurricanes of our lives, where will we go?  To where—to Whom—will we evacuate?

As I have stated before, I have always had sleep patterns that allow for very vivid dreams.  I remember lots of my dreams and often have “story time” for my closest family and friends.  I am sure they may roll their eyes at times when I start the sentence with “I had the strangest dream last night.”  But you know, scripture tells us that God can teach us in the night watches, and sometimes, whether it’s pizza or providence, I have a dream from which I can learn something.  Such is the case in a dream I had a couple of years ago.  For obvious reasons, I have remembered this dream in the past few days and have been reminded again of its lesson.

I dreamed that I was standing before a giant wave—a terrible storm, typhoon, hurricane.  And I knew there was nothing I could do about it.  There was nothing I could do to change the situation.  So I braced myself and prayed to God.  And in my dream, I was swept on top of the wave and carried along in a gentle fashion.  I still experienced the giant wave and all of its destructive power, but I was riding above it, and therefore it couldn’t hurt me.  In my dream, I then landed on an island filled with people, unaware that another giant wave was about to come.  I gathered as many as I could and took them to the top floor of a large building on the island.  I looked around me and realized that this building was made of glass, and though it was tall, it would never withstand the great wave.  My hope in this man-made structure was useless.  And then I looked out the window and I saw the mountains behind me.  I knew that I had to get the people to the mountain—a safe structure, made by God, not by man.

I don’t need to break it down for you as to why I have been thinking about that dream this week.  But what I will do it this:  I will remind you of truth from God’s Word.  In today’s reading, there were snippets of truth we can remember today and every day that storms and fears of storms come into our lives.

11 The Lord has given me a strong warning not to think like everyone else does. He said,

12 “Don’t call everything a conspiracy, like they do,
    and don’t live in dread of what frightens them.
13 Make the Lord of Heaven’s Armies holy in your life.
    He is the one you should fear.
He is the one who should make you tremble.
14     He will keep you safe.

                                                            Isaiah 8:13-14

Yes, He will keep us safe.  But we have to understand that the safety of the Lord may be different than our view of safety.  Yes, he is capable of keeping our bodies safe and sound.  And yes, even our possessions He can guard.  However, the true mark of safety is not in this temporary body, nor in our temporary treasures.  The true mark of safety is the safety of our souls.  And only God can take care of that.  And our reading today, prophetically tells where that safety lies.

Nevertheless, that time of darkness and despair will not go on forever. The land of Zebulun and Naphtali will be humbled, but there will be a time in the future when Galilee of the Gentiles, which lies along the road that runs between the Jordan and the sea, will be filled with glory.

[g]The people who walk in darkness
    will see a great light.
For those who live in a land of deep darkness,[h]
    a light will shine.

                                                            Isaiah 9:1-2

Where is this great light?  Or rather Who is this great light, the glory coming from Galilee?

For a child is born to us,
    a son is given to us.
The government will rest on his shoulders.
    And he will be called:
Wonderful Counselor,[i] Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
His government and its peace
    will never end.
He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David
    for all eternity.
The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies
    will make this happen!

                                                            Isaiah 9:6-7

Do you recognize that description?  Who is this great light, this great glory?  It is our Jesus, of course.  Though I don’t normally read The Message, I do like the way it describes these verses:

The people who walked in darkness
    have seen a great light.
For those who lived in a land of deep shadows—
    light! sunbursts of light!

For a child has been born—for us!
    the gift of a son—for us!
He’ll take over
    the running of the world.
His names will be: Amazing Counselor,
    Strong God,
Eternal Father,
    Prince of Wholeness.
His ruling authority will grow,
    and there’ll be no limits to the wholeness he brings.

                                                            Isaiah 9:1-2, 6-7

There are no limits to the wholeness He brings.  And no storm or flood or tragedy can take that away from us.  So, whatever you are facing this day or in the days to come, remember these words:

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
    where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
  the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip—
    he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord watches over you—
    the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
    nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all harm—
    he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
    both now and forevermore.

                                                            Psalm 121