Today’s Bible passages are: 2 Chronicles 22-23, Revelation 10, Zechariah 6, and John 9

john 9By Lisa Velthouse

When I was in fifth grade, in the weeks and months that led up to Christmas, two men in our church learned that they had brain tumors. One of the men was a man named Gary. The other was my dad.

Gary’s tumor had been discovered first, and as I recall, it came with a prognosis more grim. His tumor was cancerous, and something about it (either the location or the shape of the tumor or both) made surgery cuts especially complicated. My dad was cancer-free, and we were told that physicians removed tumors like his most commonly of all.

Still, each of the two men required a procedure that involved the work of sharp instruments in his head, so that Christmas was a stressful one for both our families. My parents found solace in a new friendship with Gary and his wife, and I think the feeling was mutual. Both couples were about the same age with a handful of kids, both worked hard to make ends meet, both were facing complicated decisions about doctors, hospitals, surgeries, and radiation, not to mention added financial strain and the all-too-real awareness that everything could change in an instant.… Continue Reading

Today’s Bible passages are: 2 Chronicles 21, Revelation 9, Zechariah 5, and John 8

12182013_AKBy Amy Kannel

“They said to him therefore, ‘Where is your Father?’ Jesus answered, ‘You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also.’” (John 8:19)

You know the phrase, “pushes your buttons”? Well, my husband likes to joke that his brother’s five-year-old daughter has just one button: giant, red, and flashing. And it also just so happens that orneriness runs in my husband’s family. (Of course, there’s none at all on my side. Ahem.) Since it’s so easy to get our adorably precocious niece all riled up, her uncle Steve just can’t resist pushing her button when we all get together.

At Thanksgiving dinner, Steve was pestering his niece, and she shot him a look and said indignantly, “You’re just like Grandpa!” With this, we all lost it. My husband was indeed acting like his dad; Olivia had pegged him exactly. She knew her uncle Steve, and she knew his father—her grandpa—too.

***

As my family has grown and we’ve sought to establish our own Christmas traditions, my favorite by far has been the Jesse Tree. If you’re unfamiliar with this custom, a Jesse Tree is a way of celebrating Advent by tracing the story of redemption through the Old Testament, looking for hints of Jesus in His family tree.… Continue Reading

Today’s Bible passages are: 2 Chronicles 19-20, Revelation 8, Zechariah 4, and John 7

By Erin Leigh

Zechariah 4

Today’s post is a response to Zechariah 4:
And the angel who talked with me came again and woke me, like a man who is awakened out of his sleep. And he said to me, “What do you see?” I said, “I see, and behold, a lampstand all of gold, with a bowl on the top of it, and seven lamps on it, with seven lips on each of the lamps that are on the top of it. And there are two olive trees by it, one on the right of the bowl and the other on its left.” And I said to the angel who talked with me, “What are these, my lord?” Then the angel who talked with me answered and said to me, “Do you not know what these are?” I said, “No, my lord.” Then he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts. Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain. And he shall bring forward the top stone amid shouts of ‘Grace, grace to it!’” (Zechariah 4:1-7, ESV)
Following are Erin Leigh’s thoughts on the passage:

This verse always speaks to my flesh.… Continue Reading

Today’s Bible passages are: 2 Chronicles 18, Revelation 7, Zechariah 3, and John 6

john 6By Brenda Chance

Christmas Day had delayed too long for his five-year-old patience. Family members shuffled in so slowly that one thousand babies around the world were born before the old folks finally found their seats by the tree. You could see the anxious anticipation in his eyes—if his parents hadn’t been looming with corrective phrases locked and loaded, he would have pushed them all into their chairs and buckled them up for the ride he had waited twenty-five days to take them on. There were presents to be unwrapped and his fingers fidgeted to do their bidding.

All that waiting and he tore through those presents faster than a blink. He created a flurry of wrapping paper. What was inside each package mattered not, only that there was one more.

No one suspected what happened next, that is after the five year old realized he’d ripped through the last present. There were tears, large and forceful. They weighted down his entire body with despair, submerging him in a personal flood of Noachian proportions. All holiday sentiments of calm and bright ran and hid when his words rang out, “That’s all?… Continue Reading

Today’s Bible passages are: 2 Chronicles 14-15, Revelation 4, Haggai 2, and John 3

matthew 1By Megan Oldfield

He came from Sweden in 1911 to homestead on the Hi-Line, that semiarid stretch of open prairie just south of the Canadian border and east of the Rockies that the U.S. government and the Great Northern Railway promised was free and plentiful.

Sailing on a ship named Victoria through Liverpool, then Halifax, then down the St. Lawrence River to the port of Chicago, he worked on an uncle’s ranch in North Dakota for two years before arriving in northern Montana to file on his own 320.

A few years later, he met and married Olefina, who came from Norway via New York, and together they proved up, farming wheat and raising cattle and three children, until a cerebral hemorrhage took his life too soon in 1944.

“Times were tough,” my husband’s uncle recalls as we sit around the table after Thanksgiving, eating pumpkin pie and listening to him retell the story.

“A person got to know what he needed and what he thought he needed, that’s for sure.”

I watch him and my mother-in-law, his sister, puzzle together the pieces of their past. There are records and letters to look through, and pictures, so many pictures, with dates and names scribbled on the back, some in English, but most in Swedish or Norwegian.… Continue Reading

Today’s Bible passages are: 2 Chronicles 13, Revelation 3, Haggai 1, and John 2

By Kelli Campbell

Revelation 3
Today’s art is a response to Revelation 3:

‘And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: ‘The words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars.

“‘I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead…”

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’ (verses 1-2, 6)

‘And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: ‘The words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens.

“‘I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name….”

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’ (verses 7-8, 13)

‘And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation.

Continue Reading

Today’s Bible passages are: 2 Chronicles 11-12, Revelation 2, Zephaniah 3, and John 1

John 1By Kelli Gotthardt

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. ”

If you’re like me, you may have already tuned out. Seriously? Of all the passages to discuss, you picked the Christmas one? How obvious. How…uninspired.

If you’ve been a follower of Jesus for a while, you may find it difficult to get excited about the birth of Jesus. It’s not that you don’t want to be filled with hope and anticipation, it’s just that…you’ve heard the story of Christmas so many times for so many years in so many ways. And this is the busiest season of all.

Jesus was born in a manager, yada, yada, yada. Blah, blah, blah. More tinsel, more parties…Enough already!!

You’re not alone. According to John 1, lots of people missed it.

” He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him”

Which makes sense. Bethlehem was abuzz. Wall to wall people. All doing what was required of them. Everyone’s routines had been disturbed by a new government census mandate requiring them to register in the home of their ancestors.… Continue Reading

Today’s Bible passages are: 2 Chronicles 10, Revelation 1, Zephaniah 2, and Luke 24

By Julie Chen

Revelation 1

Today’s art is a response to Revelation 1:

John to the seven churches that are in Asia:

Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth.

To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen.

“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” (Revelation 1:4-8, ESV)

Today’s Question: How can God’s might encourage or strengthen you today? (Respond in the comments.)

JulieC_200Julie Chen dreamed of being an artist and missionary since the age of six.… Continue Reading

Today’s Bible passages are: 2 Chronicles 9, Jude, Zephaniah 1, and Luke 23

Luke 23By Lisa Velthouse

Our girl was born two months into my husband’s six-and-a-half-month deployment to Afghanistan. It was late afternoon there when she made her arrival, and his company was out on a mission. There had been a firefight, on account of which he hadn’t slept much and he needed to write and submit some reports to higher headquarters urgently. He didn’t have much access to civilian emails during that time. And the (typically reliable, typically lightning-fast) Red Cross message that a hospital nurse supposedly dispatched to him on my behalf never made it to the Middle East. The result of all this was that Nathan didn’t know about his daughter’s birth until two afternoons later, almost 48 hours after the fact.

Two a.m. local time, he finally called me. “I just found out,” was how our first parental conversation started. There was an uncharacteristic jitter in his voice, and it laid bare some of his feelings about the new and uncharted waters we were in. I could hear it instantly: he was curious, tentative, apologetic, proud, thrilled. But three minutes after I had answered the phone, duty called again, and he had to hang up.… Continue Reading

Today’s Bible passages are: 2 Chronicles 6:12-42, 1 John 5, Habakkuk 1, and Luke 20

12062013_JBBy Jettie Barrett, Guest Contributor

And just like that… December is upon us. The holiday season has snuck up on us in the sneaky way it knows how, and the busyness of our lives is at an all time high. Family dinners and gatherings, household chores, shopping lists to attend to, meals to prepare, miles to log on the treadmill, a 45 hour work week, recorded TV shows to catch up on, coffee dates with friends… the list is never ending.

But each of us knows that this list cannot erase the places in which we still long for God in our lives. The places in our hearts that still need God’s healing touch. The relationships that still need mending and forgiveness. The pain and suffering of having lost a loved one is exaggerated at this time of year, and we bear this stress each day.

So we plop down on the couch at the end of the evening, the snow glistening under the street lamps. The list is most certainly still there, but possibly we now have slowed down enough, even if it is a mere five minutes, to come before God with our thoughts, our requests.… Continue Reading