Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Wait! Watch!

“Is your church having a Watch Night Service?” a friend asked.

“I haven’t heard about one,” I responded.

That question set me to thinking about Watch Night services I attended while growing up in the beautiful north Georgia mountains. Each New Year’s Eve around 10 p.m., our family would meet with other families at the little country church, and together we would worship as we waited for the arrival of the New Year. We’d sing hymns and pray. Some folks would stand and testify about the blessings the Lord had given them in the past and how they trusted Him to be faithful to them in the coming year.

Those simple services stand in stark contrast to the way so many people celebrate today. Back in those long-ago days, we knew nothing about “toasting” in the New Year, of being among the thousands who gather in large cities to celebrate, of needing “designated drivers” to get us home, and so forth. We celebrated quietly, with hearts filled with gratitude to our gracious God—and with our hands, figuratively speaking, in His, trusting Him to lead us and to guide us in the coming year, as He had in the past.

Even though Watch Night Services are pretty much a thing of the past, I continue to celebrate the coming of the New Year in a similar manner in my own home. As the old year draws to an end, I sit quietly and reflect on the ways God blessed me in it and thank Him for His mercy and grace. I ask Him to take care of me in the New Year and to show me the paths He wants me to follow, since what was said to God’s people centuries ago as they prepared to enter the land He had promised to them can be said to me—and to you, Dear Reader:  “You have not been this way before” (Joshua 3:4).

Since we, like they, need Him to lead us, let’s wait quietly and watch eagerly for Him.

©2014, Johnnie Ann Burgess Gaskill 

This is the Bible my Daddy and Mother gave me for my birthday in 1978.
It is one of my most cherished possessions.
My parents knew that the Word of God
would show me how to live a good and godly life,
as it had shown them.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Gifts Are Waiting!

The Sunday before Christmas, our pastor preached a wonderful sermon about “The Gift of Prayer.” During the message, he said we are the ones who lose if we reject God’s invitation to confidently “draw near the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16, ESV). Whether we stubbornly refuse the gift of prayer or simply neglect to draw near to God, we miss out on the wonderful gifts God wants to give us, gifts He has already prepared for us, gifts just waiting until such time as we turn to Him and ask for them.

Upon hearing that, I immediately thought about the Christmas gifts that were wrapped and waiting in my house. How sad—unthinkable, actually—that the intended recipients of those gifts would fail to express any interest in receiving them, that they would go on their merry way without paying any attention to me and to the gifts I've lovingly provided for them. Yet, we do that same kind of thing when we fail to pray. For example, the Bible clearly says, “You do not have, because you do not ask. 3You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions” (James 4:2b-3, ESV).

Dear Reader, all sorts of wonderful gifts are in God’s storehouse of blessings, gifts with our name on them, gifts just waiting for us to humbly ask God for them and then gratefully receive them. Let us, then, draw near the throne of grace every day!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Let the light shine!

As my husband started to put up our Christmas tree, I said, “Oh, hold off just a few minutes, please, so I can wash the windows before the tree goes up.”

Within a few minutes, the living room windows were sparkling clean—inside and out. Cleaning them wasn’t absolutely necessary, since they weren’t all that dirty. Even so, I wanted to do all I could to showcase the tiny white lights on the tree, hoping they would delight folks driving down the street. I know I’m always affected by the sight of soft light in a window, especially on very dark nights. Such light conveys a feeling of peace, of warmth and coziness, of simplicity and timelessness, of …. Thus, I’m happy to let light shine forth from my windows so that others can enjoy it and know that there is life within these walls, that people live here.

Even more appealing than light shining in a window is the light that emanates from people who truly love the Lord Jesus and have a close relationship with Him. Such persons have an inner glow that is obvious to all. Folks are drawn to him or her, eager to know what is producing the glow, the peace, the gentleness, the joy, the love…. The cleaner the windows of the soul, the brighter His light shines forth.

You are the light of the world—like a city on a mountain, glowing in the night for all to see. Don’t hide your light under a basket! Instead, put it on a stand and let it shine for all. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.
~Jesus (in Matthew 5:14-16, New Living Translation)

Monday, December 15, 2014

Like a Birdling In Its Nest

1He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
            Will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
2I will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress,
            My God, in whom I trust!”
3For it is He who delivers you from the snare of the trapper
            And from the deadly pestilence.
4He will cover you with His pinions,
            And under His wings you may seek refuge;
            His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark.
Psalm 91:1-4, NASB

On Dec. 14th, as a friend and I talked about our favorite devotional books, we mentioned Streams in the Desert. Later that day, I ordered that book for my Kindle but didn’t begin reading it until the following morning. The moment I read the poem at the end of the devotional for that day, I felt compelled to share it with others, especially with a friend whose one-year-old great grandson had been hospitalized the night before. I knew it contained good advice for her—and for all of us!
Trust and rest when all around you
Puts your faith to stringent test;
Let no fear or foe confound you,
Wait for God and trust and rest.
Trust and rest with heart abiding,
Like a birdling in its nest,
Underneath His feathers hiding,
Fold your wings and trust and rest.

Dec. 15th reading, Streams in the Desert, written by L. B. Cowman, edited by James Reiman, ©1997. Original was published in 1925.