Daily Devotional for December 7, 2016

Luke 12:33-34
“Be generous. Give to the poor. Get yourselves a bank that can’t go bankrupt, a bank in heaven far from bankrobbers, safe from embezzlers, a bank you can bank on. It’s obvious, isn’t it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being.

Scripture quotations from The Message. © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene Peterson.  Used by permission of NavPress, Colorado Springs, CO.  All rights reserved.

This morning, I heard a television anchor interview a psychologist about the Christmas season…and why it is depressing for so many.  One of the things the expert noted was that this is a time when a lot of us remember people who are no longer alive.  We think about the traditions of Grandma and Grandpa…or how Uncle Paul always put up a huge light display.  And we miss these things - and the people.

Some of us try to fill in the gaps…to carry on the traditions for future generations.  Others go a totally different route and completely change their holiday routine.  But there is one thing that should not change about this season…and that is our spirit of giving.

For all of the nuttiness that goes with this season (and I say this with all the love I can muster), we must remember WHY we are celebrating.  God gave us Jesus…the greatest Gift of all time.  There is no better reason to celebrate, decorate, and give presents to others.  But we need to be thoughtful in our holiday celebrations.  We need to look around and ask ourselves…”Does little Joey need another Lego® set – or does his classmate need a warm coat?”  We need to question our desire to add another row of Christmas lights to the roof over purchasing food for a hungry family…outfitting a foster child…or paying the light bill for a single mother who is struggling to make ends meet.

In short, we need to be generous to those in need and store up “treasure” in heaven…to satiate our heart rather than our landscape…to make a difference instead of making a point!  We need to carry on the traditions of our loved ones – within reason.  But maybe we need to start a few new ones…and carry them into the New Year and beyond.  We need to realize that sometimes a smile, a hug, and a few words of encouragement can be just as critical to the well-being of someone in need as any tangible items.  A few minutes of our time spent visiting a shut-in or reading to a child could be more important than any box of candy or toy.  We need to ask God to give us a new perspective about giving with purpose and meaning.

The spirit of giving is not something we should activate on December 1st and pack away with the holiday decorations after New Year’s Day.  We should build up treasure in heaven by meeting the needs of those around us all year long.  And we should begin today.  Are you with me?

©2016 Debbie Robus

Daily Devotional for December 6, 2016

Luke 11:10-13    
“Don’t bargain with God. Be direct. Ask for what you need. This is not a cat-and-mouse, hide-and-seek game we’re in. If your little boy asks for a serving of fish, do you scare him with a live snake on his plate? If your little girl asks for an egg, do you trick her with a spider? As bad as you are, you wouldn’t think of such a thing—you’re at least decent to your own children. And don’t you think the Father who conceived you in love will give the Holy Spirit when you ask him?”

Scripture quotations from The Message. © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene Peterson.  Used by permission of NavPress, Colorado Springs, CO.  All rights reserved.

This is the time of year when children ask Santa Claus for specific items…and they expect to receive them. After all, we’re talking about SANTA CLAUS!  He would never disappoint a child…right?  You and I both know that we adults have to sometimes do some fancy finagling…like when the child comes up with a totally new request, just days before Christmas - and after “Santa” has already “made” all of the toys asked for back in November!

Aren’t you glad that God doesn’t operate like this?  Isn’t it comforting to know that we can go to Him any hour of the day and say, “Lord, I need…” and He will answer our request.  Notice I did not say that God will always give us exactly what we asked for.  God is not in the business of doling out wishes and whims willy-nilly!  But God will always meet our true needs - according to His will for us.

Every year, I give the children pajamas, socks and underwear for Christmas. A few years ago, Timothy pulled a package of underwear out of his stocking, walked over to his father and said, “Here, Dad…these are for YOU!”  Needless to say, our nephew was not impressed with this gift!  But I knew that it was something that he and his siblings truly needed.

God always gives us what we need when we ask.  He will ALWAYS send His Holy Spirit if we ask for comfort, wisdom, guidance and companionship…even when our actual requisition takes a more vague form, as in, “I need help with XYZ.”  He may even send us an “underwear-type” gift, if that is what He feels is appropriate.  But the point is…we will never lack when we seek God.  He will always give us good and perfect gifts.

Thank goodness God doesn’t operate on the “naughty or nice” scale of giving.  We will never be able to earn His goodness…nor will we deserve His gift of Jesus and the Holy Spirit.  But God gives them anyway…because He loves us more than we can ever imagine.  His “Christmas gift” is available to us 24/7/365. What a blessing!

What are you asking God for these days?  And what are you expecting?  When He gives you good and perfect gifts, will you recognize them and be truly grateful?  Don’t you think you should be?

©2016 Debbie Robus 

Daily Devotional for December 5, 2016

John 3:16-18
“This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person’s failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him.

Scripture quotations from The Message. © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene Peterson.  Used by permission of NavPress, Colorado Springs, CO.  All rights reserved.

There are people in this world who are hard to love…but no one is unloveable.  If you don’t remember anything else I ever say, please remember this.  I get it…some people are rude and insensitive…some children never seem to behave themselves...and some folks simply smell bad.  Others do horrible, unspeakable things…treat each other with disrespect…and present conduct so terrible that nobody wants to be around them.  Some people act as if they don’t care…about anything or anyone (except maybe themselves.)  And God sent Jesus for all of them.

I frame these thoughts in the context of three locations…school, the workplace, and church.  If you are a teacher or someone who works with children, remember that your most important job every single day is to make each child feel worthwhile and special.  Building up their self-worth is far more critical than building their knowledge base.  School should be their safe haven…the place where they are accepted and acknowledged…the place where they feel that they belong.

If you are a student, you should be surrounded by people who encourage you and build your heart and character every day…and you should do all that YOU can to encourage your fellow students in the same manner.

In the workplace, you should recognize that every customer and employee has worth…that every one of the people you encounter each day brings a unique set of abilities, problems and concerns with him/her…and your most important role is to show kindness, respect, and tolerance.

Church should be the one place above all others where people feel loved and acknowledged.  Many who come through the doors are seeking respite and refuge…love and acceptance...someone who will offer them encouragement and hope.  Instead, I’m afraid that many find people arrogance, social cliques, criticism and judgment, and a strong dose of condemnation that makes them feel inferior.  There doesn’t seem to be much room in some of our churches for the broken - and brokenhearted.

The thing is…God sent Jesus for ALL of us…not just the nice ones – or the pretty ones.  He didn’t say, “I am only sending my Son to save those who are clean and behave themselves every single minute…the ones whose home life is perfect, and those who have no money problems or struggles with addiction.  I’m not sending Him for those who are emotionally a little off balance…are anything other than 100% heterosexual…and have less than creamy white skin and a fat bank account.

God did not put a single limitation or qualification on who could have salvation because of Jesus Christ.  So why do we?  God gave us the most perfect gift possible…a gift that not a single one of us can ever earn or deserve.  He loved every single one of us enough to do this. So what makes us think we can love others any less?

Most of us learned early in life to be gracious recipients of gifts…even the ones that we didn’t ask for – or really don’t like.  But there is nothing unlikeable about God’s gift of salvation.  In fact, the mere idea that someone would reject this gift is probably absurd to most of us – although there will be those who do so.  I trust that you are not among them.  And in accepting God’s gift of Jesus, we must also accept the command to love others as we love Him – and ourselves…and to treat them as we would wish to be treated.  As you go to school, work, church – or just out in the world each day – think about Jesus and what He did for you.  Ask yourself if how you are treating others and responding to them lines up with this perfect Gift.

Make every minute of your day a time to show God your gratitude for Jesus.  Do this with your words and actions – and by treating others as the precious recipients of this great Gift, as well.   Because of God’s great love for us…no one is unloveable. Are you demonstrating this in your daily living?  Isn’t it time you were?

©2016 Debbie Robus

Daily Devotional for December 4, 2016

James 1:16-18
Don’t be fooled, my dear friends. Every good and perfect gift comes down from the Father who created all the lights in the heavens. He is always the same and never makes dark shadows by changing. He wanted us to be his own special people, and so he sent the true message to give us new birth.

Scripture taken from the Contemporary English Version © 1991,1992, 1995 by American Bible Society, Used by Permission.

In a typical 7-year-old whine, Timothy lamented this weekend that “I don’t think I can wait three more weeks for Christmas!”  I told him to enjoy this month…to think of Christmas as a whole season - and Christmas Day as the culmination when many more gifts arrive. I have reminded myself to do this – especially in recent years.  I try to find joy in the events that lead up to December 25th.  Decorating, writing cards, baking, wrapping gifts…all of this is part and parcel of what “Christmas” is all about – or in my opinion, it should be.

These activities should not be thought of as “chores” to be accomplished…but rather, gifts to others – and to ourselves.  When Timothy and Nathan examined our holiday decorations this weekend and their faces lit up with joy and wonder, I felt like I had received a gift.  When I enjoy a holiday cookie or two and a cup of spiced tea, I feel as if God is saying, “Celebrate the season…every bit of it.”

When Greg, “Grandma E”, and I meet up with the children and their parents at the annual city Christmas parade – and watch the expressions on their faces as they review the entries, I feel as if God has blessed me with a gift of time spent creating happy memories. When we watch the children open gifts on Christmas Eve and hear them say, “It’s just what I wanted!”…I feel as if God is saying, “Now you know how *I* feel when I give you something that you really appreciate.”

My point is this…God’s gifts are all around us. Yes, we acknowledge the gift of Jesus during this holiday season.  But do we truly recognize all of the “good and perfect” little gifts that God is continually bestowing upon us?  Do we see the daily “gifts” of the Christmas season…or are we so narrowly focused on THE DAY that we miss everything else?  If all we can think about is December 24th and 25th, we will miss the true gifts of the “Christmas Season.”  And if we get tunnel vision about God’s gifts in general, we will miss more than a few of them.

Stop and “smell the roses” in the next few weeks. Give yourself the gift of an attitude adjustment, and acknowledge every single event and activity that culminates in “Christmas Day.”  Recognize – and appreciate – all of God’s good and perfect gifts…even shopping for Aunt Mary and untangling that aggravatingly twisted bundle of twinkling lights!  Take time to thank God…for Jesus – and for the amazing opportunities we have to serve and celebrate Him. All too soon, it will be a new year, and “Christmas” will have come and gone again.  We will look back and wish it hadn’t all flown by so quickly.  But will we have truly relished and respected God and his “good and perfect” gifts?  Isn’t it time we did?

©2016 Debbie Robus

Daily Devotional for December 3, 2016

December 3 ~ Genesis 28:20-22
And Jacob vowed this vow to God: “If God will help and protect me on this journey and give me food and clothes, and will bring me back safely to my father, then I will choose Jehovah as my God! And this memorial pillar shall become a place for worship; and I will give you back a tenth of everything you give me!”

The Living Bible copyright © 1971 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

We learn at an early age to “bargain.”  Little children tell adults, “Just let me have five more minutes…eat one cookie…do XYZ…and I will go straight to bed, brush my teeth, or whatever it is we are wanting them to do at the moment. On the flip side, we adults make promises to children if they will behave a certain way, clean their rooms, or simply brush their teeth and go to bed!

But we adults have truly mastered bargaining…particularly with God.  If only He will make life perfect for us, we will serve Him with our whole heart and give back to Him at least a tenth of all we have been given!  If only He will get us out of our current mess, we will serve Him with all we have for the rest of our earthly lives!  Sounds fair…right? 

I can see why Jacob bargained with God.  This was Old Testament times.  Jesus had not come to earth yet.  Jacob felt like this was a fair agreement…and perhaps for the time, it was.  But the God who loved us enough to send Jesus to die on the cross for our sins – before we were even born – deserves ALL that we can give Him.  Of course, everything we have came from God, so anything we give to Him will essentially be a “re-gift!”  But still, to put contingencies on these “gifts” seems as if we don’t believe in His promises.  Surely that is not the case!

How about we do this?  Why not just cut to the chase and lay it all out before God?  What if we simply say, “Lord…I give You my best…all that I can…whatever You desire.  You gave me a promise of eternal life with You in Heaven.  What can I give You while I’m still on this earth?”  Whatever God asks of you, He will equip you to accomplish.  Even if it seems impossible - like giving up a circle of “friends” who are not the right crowd for you…breaking a lifelong habit…or putting yourself “out there” in a way you would rather not - God will assure that everything comes together perfectly.  If GOD ordains it, you cannot fail.

So let’s quit bargaining with God, revel in His promise of Eternal Life, and serve Him on this earth with every ounce of energy and courage we can muster. Let’s put our faith into action and show the world that with God, anything and everything is possible.  And let’s give Him our very best each and every day without a single though about what is in it for us.  Are you with really ready to give?

©2016 Debbie Robus

Daily Devotional for December 2, 2016

December 2 ~ Galatians 6:6-10
Share every good thing you have with anyone who teaches you what God has said.

You cannot fool God, so don’t make a fool of yourself! You will harvest what you plant. If you follow your selfish desires, you will harvest destruction, but if you follow the Spirit, you will harvest eternal life. Don’t get tired of helping others. You will be rewarded when the time is right, if you don’t give up. We should help people whenever we can, especially if they are followers of the Lord.

Scripture taken from the Contemporary English Version © 1991,1992, 1995 by American Bible Society, Used by Permission.

As I write this, Timothy is standing in front of me…building some of his favorite characters from an ottoman covered in Legos® while we watch our third movie since we got home from school today.  The three of us (Greg, Timothy and I) also watched two “reindeer” specials that I saved on the DVR. 

Fridays are my “day” to volunteer in Timothy’s class at school -and sometimes help Zola’s teacher. While I’m there, I go to lunch with both children. Trust me…it’s all about spending time with the kids, because no adult really has a burning desire to sit through 30-40 minutes in the cafeteria with elementary school children just for fun!

Greg and I hope the time we are investing in these children will reap a good harvest.  We sow seeds of love, kindness, positivity, and the teachings of Jesus into their little hearts and minds every chance we get. There is no guarantee that these efforts will “pay off,” but we prayerfully trust that God will bless our faithfulness.

You may be asking, “What does this have to do with me?”  You may not have elementary school children to nurture. Your “calling” may be totally different from ours. God may be providing you with other opportunities to help someone.  But the point is, we all have a “mission.”  There is someone, somewhere who needs your help.  You may not want to give it…you may grow tired of assisting and doing what God shows you to do.  But keep doing it!  You will harvest what you plant…and if you persevere and keep giving, God will bless your efforts.  Scripture says to do otherwise will reap a harvest of destruction.  I don’t know if this is a guarantee…but is it really worth the risk?

Don’t get tired of helping others.  God may not be calling you to sit in the elementary school cafeteria every Friday – or watch a marathon of kids’ movies all weekend.  But He is calling you to give all you can to someone – or something.  How you respond will make all the difference.  Are you ready to roll up your sleeves and start giving?

©2016 Debbie Robus

Daily Devotional for December 1, 2016

Acts 20:32-35
I now place you in God’s care. Remember the message about his great kindness! This message can help you and give you what belongs to you as God’s people. I have never wanted anyone’s money or clothes. You know how I have worked with my own hands to make a living for myself and my friends. By everything I did, I showed how you should work to help everyone who is weak. Remember that our Lord Jesus said, “More blessings come from giving than from receiving.”

Scripture taken from the Contemporary English Version © 1991,1992, 1995 by American Bible Society, Used by Permission.

There is a little girl in my Sunday school class who went to a local bank today to see Santa. She and her little brother had their photo made with Santa.  The little girl’s mother posted on Facebook that “Julia has been so worried that everyone just asks Santa for presents and never asks what he wants. Julia did not ask for anything. She just asked Santa what he wanted.”  I would say that Julia is well on her way to developing a giving spirit!

There is nothing wrong with children sitting on Santa’s lap and telling him what they want for Christmas.  But too many of us have cultivated the “what’s-in-it-for-ME?” attitude to the point that it has become second nature to us. Everything we say and do is framed in this context.  We are envious of others…we fight to “keep up with the neighbors”…and some of us would step over our own family members to make an extra buck to acquire more “stuff.”

I grew up in an atmosphere of giving.  I watched my Mam-ma Polly give out of her abundance more times than I can count.  And let me be clear…my grandparents were NOT rich!  I thought they were when I was little, because they were ALWAYS giving something to someone.  Not until I was an adult did I realize how little they had…and how much they gave.  And it served them well.  My Mam-ma was one of the most loved women I’ve ever known.  And she was revered for her generous spirit.

Don’t misunderstand me…we don’t give so others will think we are wonderful.  We give because Jesus commanded us to do this…to meet the needs of others and think of these ahead of our own.  God has already given us Jesus and more than we ever could deserve.  The fact that He also blesses us with love and abundance because of our own generosity toward others is merely a nice side benefit.

Look around…especially this holiday season.  Who is in need…of a hug, a card, a bag of cookies or candy, a warm coat, a few bucks, a sack of groceries, a helping hand, a ride, or a few words of encouragement?  Who needs to know that you care…in whatever form that may take?  Who needs to see Jesus in the words and actions that you provide?  Who will be the catalyst for blessings you cannot even imagine, as you yield to Jesus’ command and “work to help everyone who is weak?”

Isn’t it time you asked someone else what they wanted – even Santa?  Will this be the day that you get started?

©2016 Debbie Robus