I have a beautiful cup that has been sitting on my kitchen counter for a week now. It is deep purple—made of thick glass—the kind you can rarely find anymore. It is such thick glass and such a deep purple you cannot see inside the cup.
The glass belongs to a set that came from one of the grandmothers in my family. They are my favorites. I have picked it up several times to use it because it is out and within my reach. And every time I look inside I am surprised to find someone poured some kind of grease drippings into the cup. I guess I keep forgetting because from the outside you would never know. It looks as lovely as ever. But there it is—nasty grease. As of right now, the cup is unusable except as a container for grease, but not to drink from, which is the reason for which this lovely cup was created.
Jesus talked about cleaning the outside of cups (Matthew 23:25-26). He told the Pharisees this is what was wrong with their religion. They had beautiful cups that were filthy inside. We can read this and feel so judgmental towards the Pharisees. Until we look at our own lives. Our own religions. Our own belief systems. We all want beautiful cups. We think pretty cups mean pretty lives and doesn’t Jesus want our lives to be pretty?
Doesn’t Jesus want our families to be pictures of perfect love?
Doesn’t He want our children to be successful and us to do well in our jobs?
Surely He wants our homes to be lovely and our grass to be mowed.
He needs us to represent Him well by serving faithfully in a local church and volunteering in our children’s schools. And we need to take care of ourselves physically, so we should be eating well and exercising since our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit. So now our jobs look good, our homes look good, our families look good, and our appearances are good. Everything is good. It is a beautiful cup.
But what about when it isn’t? What about when the kids are struggling? The marriage is struggling? The home is falling into disrepair because the job isn’t going so great so there’s no money for repairs. What about when you are handling one crisis after another, and you pick up a nasty junk food habit and lose the gym habit? That cup takes some hits. The beautiful glass is dinged and chipped. It’s lost some of its shine. It’s actually not looking anywhere close to beautiful anymore. It’s looking rough.
I have met these women. The ones whose lives are not picture perfect. I am one of these women. I did not set out to be. I set out to have a beautiful cup. But somewhere along the way, by the grace of God, I found out Jesus wasn’t looking for beautiful cups. He was looking to purify hearts and give us clean cups. These women I have met—they have dirt under their fingernails. They have wrinkles on their faces. They have tear stains on their pillows. And their cups pour forth some of the clearest, purest love of Jesus you will ever experience. Because somewhere along the way, they realized the beautiful cup was only good for looking at. It was a mirage. An ideal. A fantasy. But a clean cup? This was useful. This mattered. Because people are thirsty. They need a drink of something real and pure and hopeful. What’s even better about a clean cup? It comes from Jesus. Only He can clean the inside of our cups. We don’t have to do it. Maintaining a beautiful exterior is hard work. Exhausting work. Sometimes that’s the only reason some of us give up on it. We finally get too tired.
But then Jesus. He meets us in the tired. He meets us in the hard. He says, Let me take over from here. And He takes the dirty greasy mess we are carrying around, and He cleans it. He wipes away the grime and the heaviness and all the residue from walking through this world, and He fills our cup up with something of value. Himself. Living Water. And now we see that our cups may not be as beautiful on the outside as we had wanted. They may have chips and imperfections. They may be a little warped and lean too far in one direction – but they are full of Jesus. And Jesus is what every person we will ever meet needs. He is what our kids need, our husbands need, our homes need, our workplaces need, our churches need, our schools need. And you get to be full of Him. You get to stop working so hard to have a put together life, and you get to just start living life. Abundantly.
I have come that they may have life and have it to the full. (John 10:10, NIV)
Jesus, we give You our cups—the beautiful and the broken. We ask You to purify our hearts, purify our motives that Your life may flow through a clean vessel to a thirsty world. Help us lay down the images we hold so dear, the things that become idols before we even realize it. Set us gloriously free to live and not just try to hold everything together. Breathe over us with Your breath of life. We love you. We need you.
Author: Brooke Kireta
Mary has an incredible story; I think we would all agree. To be chosen to be the mother of Jesus, the Savior of the world, is quite an honor. But honestly, when it comes to Christmas I don’t usually think too much about her—my focus is mostly on Jesus and all He came to do for me. But this year the Lord really highlighted something in her story that has changed the way I am praying.
I have had a hard year. I am actually really ready for it to be over, except that unfortunately the changing of the calendar does not instantaneously change my life.
I have poured my heart out to God this year: I have prayed, cried, screamed, accused, cried, fought, declared, cried some more. Did I mention I have cried? My daughter told me one day my eyes were so puffy she thought I must be allergic to my eye cream. I didn’t have the heart to tell her no, I just cry all the time right now.
And now I have come to a place I don’t even know what to pray anymore. I’m out of words. I’m out of direction. I’m at the end of myself. And here in this place the Lord directed me to the most gloriously simple, beautiful prayer that I have never noticed before. I’ve read it. But I’ve never seen it.
You know how that is— something so common that you’ve heard or seen a million times – but then one day you really see it for the first time. That is what happened with this prayer from Luke Chapter 1. The angel appears to Mary to tell her she will be the mother of the Messiah Israel has long awaited. She doesn’t really understand how this will happen, and she definitely doesn’t comprehend what it means for her life, but in the most beautifully simple but incredibly profound way she says, “Let it be done to me exactly as You have said.”
And this is where the Lord stopped me and told me, Here in this place where you don’t know what to pray, where you don’t know what to believe, simply say with all the faith you can muster, “Let it be done to me exactly as You have said.” And with that simple prayer I line my life up with God’s perfect will, I say yes to whatever He has for me. I say no to my plans, the enemy’s plans, and to the accusations and lies I have believed that try to lay claim to my life. I say yes to what God says about me. I say yes to all the good He has for me, all the hope He has for me, all the promises He has declared over my life.
Because the even more beautiful thing is what came right before Mary’s statement. The angel said to her, “For the word of God will never fail.” Could you just cry? You know I am because that’s all I do these days.God will never make a promise He cannot keep. His word will never fail. His words will never be proven untrue. It’s impossible. He cannot lie; He cannot exaggerate; He cannot stretch the truth. He is truth. There is no shadow of turning in Him. He supplies His words, or promises, with the power needed to make it happen. Mary did not have to figure out how to become the virgin mother of Jesus. She just agreed with what God promised and waited.
What if we just stood as Christmas approaches, as 2016 comes to an end, and we look towards 2017 and together we say to Jesus, “Let it be done to me (and my family, my community, my nation) exactly as You have said.”
For the word of God will never fail. Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” (Luke 1:37-38, NLT)
Father, I line myself up with everything You say about me, all the thoughts You have for me, all the plans You have for me… and I say, yes. I say I not only want what You want, I will believe what You say more than my feelings or my circumstances or my past. All Your promises are yes and amen in Christ Jesus. So flood my heart with the hope that comes from believing You, no matter how this year is ending or what next year holds. You are good, and You have me. Your Word is the final say over my life.
Author: Brooke Kireta
As I walked in the beauty of the autumn afternoon, the wispy clouds gracefully danced across the expanse of blue sky. The leaves were playfully being blown by the light wind. It was a perfect day, yet stinging tears were falling down my face as I felt a deep sadness. It had been my hope that this therapeutic walk would shed this unsettling overpowering residue of heart heaviness.
This walk was occurring the day after one of the most contentious elections of recent history. The results have ushered in a new swirling firestorm of deep divides, anger, unrest, and distrust. It’s fierceness threatens to tear us all apart. Maybe, you have felt the weightiness of this, too.
How do we live in these unprecedented times? How do we hope for something more for our kids?
I don’t pretend to have answers. The issues of the day carry great complexity. I will spare you a lengthy discussion. We are all drowning in the tidal waves of ongoing news, editorials, commentaries, and social media posts, which have created a vortex of negativity and fear. Perhaps, stepping back from its exposure will bring a clearer perspective.
As I walked in the silence of that moment, I recognized that my heart had lost the bigger perspective—the eternal perspective. There are many things that are unclear—uncertain— yet I can choose to rest my heart in what I do know: God is good. God is sovereign. God is all powerful, and He will have the last say on all the chapters of history.
Now, as we enter the season of Advent, may we rekindle our hope as we reflect on the birth of Christ and the promise of His return. This reality offers to propel us beyond the swirling political chaos of the day.
In light of circumstances, Isaiah’s words spoken thousands of years ago brings comfort and a renewed eternal perspective. Eugene Peterson’s translation from The Message says it with breathtaking beauty: “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 9:6).
These words leave me breathless with wonder especially as I apply them to the uncertainties of today. Wholeness appears to be lost to this divided country. But, anything held in the hands of the Prince of Wholeness is not lost, so wholeness is possible.
Let us move forward in revived hope, knowing that Jesus—the Prince of Wholeness—is still in the trenches of life with us, writing the redemption stories of our country, our world, and our own personal histories. His redemption brings unlimited ongoing wholeness to all who know Him and stake their lives on His promises.
Friends, as we approach this season of Advent, may we take a few quiet moments to ask ourselves a few reflective questions: How can I cultivate wholeness in my life? How can I bring wholeness to my family? And lastly, How can I be a conduit of wholeness and peace to those in my sphere of influence?
Word of the Day:
For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:11, ESV)
Father God, will you give us a fresh renewed perspective of Jesus in this season of Advent. Help us prepare our hearts for His birth. Propel us forward in the promise of His return, which gives us hope to rise above the swirling chaos of the day. We ask all this in Jesus’ name, Amen.
Author: Maryanne Abbate
Many of us collect something. Some of us collect many kinds of things. However, sometimes we collect things unintentionally, especially in our thoughts.
For years, I was at the mercy of my thoughts. Since I didn’t manage them, they had me by the tail, and with the slightest hint of a storm, I was tossed around like a leaf in autumn.
My negative mindset led to many decisions that left me in a mess. Our thoughts lead to our attitudes, which dictate our decisions and direct our destiny.
For years I was heading further and further away from my God-given destiny because I was collecting negative thoughts.
I have always enjoyed collecting souvenirs from memories and trips. Recently my hubby and I have begun collecting “souvenirs” from moments we have seen God’s hand at work in our lives.
These memories are so much more valuable to us because they remind us of God’s faithfulness and intimacy. We find these “collections” help us manage our thoughts when negative mindsets come sliding back in or bang us around in a storm.
What we collect in our thoughts is in many ways a matter of life or death. Healthy thoughts that are grounded in truth are like medicine to our souls, minds, and hearts; unhealthy thoughts are literally toxic.The good news is that we get to manage our thoughts, so that they don’t manage us.
Here is a short list of how you can do that every day.
Collecting healthy mindsets allows us to live on purpose.
Word for the day:
We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ... (2 Corinthians 10:5)
Father God, I confess my mind is a battlefield. I choose to examine every thought, so that it aligns with you. Help me to see forgiveness as a tool for my spiritual health and give me the courage to be honest with my heart and my mind.
Author: Anne Say
The last few weeks we’ve been preparing our house to prepare for Christmas. I know that may sound silly. We’ve had a list of home projects we wanted to cross off before the end of the year, including painting our living room and fireplace—the location for our beloved Christmas tree.
I knew if I procrastinated the project, the list would not get finished with the tree up and decorated. So, I diligently painted and scrubbed for days (painting judges paneling is no joke). On the last day of painting, I realized my mind, effort, and energy was so focused on finishing the project to prepare for Christmas that I'd neglected quality time with our son.
So like any mother, I asked what he wanted to do. His response: “Griffin’s Kwismas Tree.” He’d watched me put grit and time into preparing for a tree, so a tree he was going to get. We put it up the very next day. The ornaments he chose gave him such joy, and the ambiance from the lights serves as a perfect new night light for his bedroom. The tree is small, but it's his, and we did it together.
I cried tears of joy as I watched him sleep beside the tree that night. I also couldn't help but feel guilty. All my sweet boy needed was a small tree, a few ornaments, and some quality time with his mom.
We have commercialized Christmas so much in the last several decades. We prepare to prepare for Christmas. We spend hours and money to decorate for the season, buy endless gifts, and consume ourselves with holiday festivities.
But what’s at the core of Christmas? A man and a pregnant woman who were scared, but faithful. A barn, a manger, and the love of God. The greatest Christmas of all didn't include lights, presents, ornaments, and rich food. Mary and Joseph weren't painting their living room to prepare for a lavish Christmas tree. They were pouring their hearts out to God. They were keeping hope for a safe delivery of the Savior of the World. They were humbling themselves for the eternal roles they were about to play.
Like my sweet boy, God doesn't need all the frills of Christmas to stir our hearts. He just needs our faithfulness, our dependence, and quality time spent with Him. He longs to remind us of the joy and peace this season brings;joy that has nothing to do with freshly painted walls, and peace that comes despite lights or gifts.
I'm thankful that Christmas is such a big holiday for so many. But I'm even more grateful for God’s message to me just before the holiday season unfolds. The gift of Christ’s birth came to a poor, lowly couple who had nothing but love in their hearts and faith in a God promising to do big things. So whether we’re blessed with much or little, my hope is that we festively celebrate this season for all it stands for. I pray we all try to place ourselves in the shoes of Mary and Joseph.
In the midst of gifts, parties, and presents, let’s stop to remember that Christ is our hope, joy, and future. Let’s pause to realize the depth and privilege of parenting our children— gifts given to us by the same God who gave us the Prince of Peace. May we focus our hearts on what's most important, and on those around us who need quality love, time, and affection while we “prepare to prepare” for the greatest time of year.
May love and peace find you in simple moments when it's easiest to hear God’s whispers, and give you hope that the joy of Christmas is only a prayer away.
Word of the Day:
She gave birth to her firstborn son; she wrapped him in cloths and lay him in a manger because there was no room available to them. (Luke 2:7)
Thank You for the miracle of Jesus. Thank You for reminding us that Christmas takes place with or without all the bells and whistles. I pray we seek out moments that show your goodness and mercy this holiday season. I pray You humble us with the true meaning of Christmas and help us find gratefulness for the opportunity to celebrate the Savior of the World. Thank you for giving us the same privilege as Mary and Joseph. may we embody their faithfulness and love of Your son.
Author: Candace Koon