Free Christmas Gifts for You

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I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can’t produce a thing. (John 15:5, The Message)

In the U.S., the Thanksgiving holiday is over. Yet my thankfulness exceeds a five-day weekend feast.

I am incredibly thankful for the peace-filled place I am in, joined with Christ who led me into my Father’s embrace. God’s arms are full of unconditional love, extravagant compassion and outrageous grace and mercy.

My mission as a follower of Jesus is

to bring others back to Him. It is central to our good news that God was in Christ making things right between Himself and the world. This means He does not hold their sins against them. But it also means He charges us to proclaim the message that heals and restores our broken relationships with God and each other. (2 Corinthians 5:19:20)

I subscribe to this mission and to Christ’s directive, from our Father, to love each other, love our neighbors, and yes, love our enemies. I believe this is the only effective and provable way to lead people to our faithful and loving God.

It is one way as a branch of Christ I live out my faith. It is one way I can reach out and offer my gifts, received through God’s Spirit, to you.

After an 8-year journey of writing, editing and re-writing, today I offer to you free, my Branches Devotional Workbooks.

All five. All free. All year.

As a favor, would you please reblog so this gift reaches as many brothers and sisters as possible?

Thank you.

To receive one or all, and read more detail about these devotionals, visit Branches Devotionals.

Those who love God’s name will dwell in it

Sleeping, Bible, LoveHow do you dwell in a name? How do you stay there when it is uncomfortable, oppressive, against your own will? How do you stay inside something that you cannot see? 

What keeps you coming back for more? This name that may or may not have been revealed to you. This place that draws you in. You may not know the name, but He knows yours. Could you love and be attracted to a God that you do not know and you cannot see?

For all the reasons to read the bible, there is one for me above all the others, because He lives there.  We may not understand or see clearly or know exactly what is going on, but we will definitely not know anything if we don’t read at all…

People want answers from God. They want signs. Their bibles sit with dust in their homes or maybe they don’t have a bible at all, those are for the weird folks. You want God to walk into your house and give you an answer. You want him to hold you. You want Him to comfort you and tell you everything will be ok…But don’t dare open a bible. That thing is outdated, inapplicable and wholly unreadable. You have errands to do. Doesn’t God know how busy you are? How many children you have? What demands your job brings you? How could He ever expect that you would be seen purchasing one of those old books let alone reading it!

Which reminds me of the story of Naaman. ..

Naaman was the commander of Syria’s army and suffered from leprosy. He had an Israelite servant girl who suggested he go to the prophet Elisha to be healed. So Naaman goes to Israel to seek out Elisha. When he gets there, Elisha does not come out himself but sends a message to go wash in the Jordan river seven times in order to be healed. Naaman is in disbelief that this is the answer and rattles off what He thinks Elisha should have said and done. After his servants ask him to reconsider Elisha’s advice, he decides to wash himself in the Jordan river seven times as Elisha had instructed him. He was completely healed. And he then acknowledged the God of Israel as the true God.

I tell you this story from 2 Kings because it’ ridiculous. It sounds ridiculous. The instructions given by Elisha, a prophet of God are too simple, and sound ridiculous. Naaman couldn’t believe that this is all that it took. And at the end of the day, he knew he had no other option. And the outcome was an outcome glorified in the Lord, in His name.

But I wouldn’t have known that or got that message had I not been familiar with the story. Had I not accepted the ridiculous proposition that a 2,000 year old book had any kind of answers in it. That I was not excluded as a Jewish person from the promises of Christ, but rather He came for me FIRST. That there would be days of direct answers to prayers in the most ludicrous of ways through the words of those pages. That the words somehow would transform themselves to speak to me; that they had breadth and depth, even on the days I did not understand them. That my medication would be found in this book, that the book knew the correct dosage, that all I had to do was ask for Him to dispense it. Ludicrous…

“My written Word is your daily fortification to guide the decisions of your heart.” From the devotional “Talk to me Jesus” by Marie Chapian

What is God’s will for your life?

Amos 2:3, “I will cut off the ruler from its midst, and all the princes I will slay with him, says the Lord.”

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Thank you my friend, see it had its purpose

Are you listening to too many motivational speakers? Faith seminars? Are you busy running around listening to everyone else but God? For weeks God gave me this verse in Amos. I sat with it, hurriedly prayed over it, but alas I left it behind; I had moved onto the next thing.

To hear God we must have a total hollowness, a place that only He can fill, a place where He can reside and live. For so long I would pray, “God, let my will be your will.” I always struggled with that prayer because it never seemed to sit just right in my spirit. I could never be on the same page as God.

So I sat with this verse again and again looking at it from a purely fleshly, worldly point of view.  I didn’t want to hear what God had to say because I thought I knew anyway. So I pushed it aside again and again until I became consumed and miserable. God, why won’t you move me? You placed this gift within me, why are you making me suffer?

We all have a gift that God has given us, and I believe to some degree we are all using it, whether we are aware of it or not. But when God resurrected my gift it almost became a curse to me. Well God, you reignited this desire, why then why is it not going anywhere? I would hear these messages that I dreamed too small or my faith was just not big enough and I’d torture myself with them. Over and over again I would say, “God, why? God move me! I just can’t take it anymore.” It became borderline obsessive to the point I concentrated only on that thing He had placed so deeply in my heart.

“I will cut off the ruler from its midst” (NAB Revised)

“I will destroy her ruler” (NIV)

And finally, finally, the word broke free. I had let the gift rule me! I had focused and concentrated all of my attention on it, hoping praying that my pleas to God would be heard. But by shifting my attention, I made it my ruler. Our gifts should never rule us, only He is allotted that special place.

So I sat with that as I listened to Him. I thought of all the mornings where I would blindly just open the readings for the day, the devotion for the day and they were just words. I didn’t ask Him first what I should be reading, which reading was for me. I focused on what I wanted to hear and couldn’t and wouldn’t accept His will. I don’t for one minute think I did it on purpose. For most of us, it is through this refinement process where we find truth.

I don’t believe now that my will will ever be his will completely. I am after all still made of flesh and bone. And if He really felt that way, He would have included that verbiage in the Lord’s prayer; but that’s not what it says. It simply says, “Your will be done.”

And I have to believe He knows better than me. And I have to believe that He wouldn’t have given me a gift just to sit stagnant. And I have to know time is eternal and that the Holy Spirit is real, and that if I really wanted to I could completely immerse myself in Him and accept His will. But not in the way that I was thinking about it before. 

I know now that His will is greater than mine will ever be, that He must be the ruler. There is something so sacred and sweet about knowing I can completely surrender to that, wake up tomorrow and say, Lord, what do you want me to read, what do you want me to do? We all can have that freedom, if we empty our prayer closets in that way, there is so much more room to fill them.

Father,

I crave your will and want none of my own. Empty me of my own desires so that yours may shine through. Let me surrender gently, knowing that you will catch me. This is the jump, this is the risk, which I know is really not a risk at all.

In Jesus name,

Amen