JOY… To The World!

One of the most iconic Christmas carols, Joy to the World doesn’t mince words. Like Linus in Charlie Brown’s Christmas show, this song knows what Christmas is all about. It’s about the Lord coming, and about our chance to make room for Him in our hearts. It is also the chance for heaven and nature to sing from the same praise book. Joy!IMG_1884

Joy can be hard to find at Christmas. When a loved one is missing from our Christmas gatherings, we remember old times and regret that we cannot share the current fun with the missing one. When we seek to please everyone and find the task overwhelming, it’s hard to feel the joy. When depression rears its head for no apparent reason, joy hides from us.

Happiness, often mistaken for joy, comes easily to some during the holidays. Many people are smiling and offering unusual kindness to strangers, there are

fullsizeoutput_6cb7delicious foods and treats to be had everywhere, and gifts begin appearing on doorsteps and under indoor fir trees.




And to be honest, there are times when the happiness is elusive also, especially when my carefully laid plans and expectations for myself go awry.


Do you think of joy as extreme happiness? Or something deeper? Or something else entirely?

I think joy is sorrow turned inside out.

I believe Jesus understood joy when he talked about it in John 16:20. “Your sorrow will become joy.” The sorrow he was talking about was the grief they would feel when he had died. He said the world would rejoice. There would be a stark contrast of feelings when Jesus was taken from them. Some would be glad, but they would be mourning.

It was this sorrow, he said, that would become joy. There would not be a replacement of the sorrow. There would be no whitewashing of the sorrow with a smile or outward happiness. But the sorrow itself would become joy. The disciples would have a miracle worked in their hearts. The pain would turn to joy. It is not the absence of sorrow that makes for joy, but the transformation of it.


So can we expect that same miracle today? This Christmas? Can the sorrow of grief, of unmet expectations, of exclusion, poverty, or depression be turned to joy? Can the coming of Christ at Christmas

be the trigger?

I think yes, we can expect it, we can find it, and it will be God’s gift to us, yet again. The miracle of Christmas is God with us.

Joy to the world and to you, my friend.fullsizeoutput_6cb0

5 Reasons to Buy a Guided Character Study for your Teenager this Christmas

The world seems to be burning. There are so many things to know, to avoid, to enjoy, to be anxious about. The anxiety is falling on us everywhere like snow in a blizzard. Both kids and adults feel it. Here are some good reasons to look again at Serving One Lord guided studies, designed for teens and young Christians of all ages.


Who hasn’t felt the sting of exclusion, taunting, or worse at the hands of school bullies? A huge problem in all schools today, bullying can have lasting effects on children, even if the situation seems mild.

The Bible doesn’t gloss over the subject of bullying and the story of Hannah can inspire your child to recognize and handle tough situations differently. While there are many practical ways to deal with bullies – reporting to adults, authorities, etc. – there remains a need for an emotional healing that God wants to provide for those who seek him. A desperate prayer directed straight to the Almighty can change everything. Such prayer grows faith, builds trust, and bestows peace.

If you or someone you know suffers from bullying, you could check out Hannah Unhinged fullsizeoutput_6029for a biblical approach that changed the course of history. Hannah’s cry for help in her “perfect storm” of problems found its way to God, who blessed her with a son, Samuel, who in turn became one of the greatest prophets in the history of Israel.


Our country is flooding with stories of “sexual misconduct” by men in high places. Somehow these men didn’t learn the basics of respect and trust in relationships.

Girls need to discern who can be trusted, and what qualities deserve attention. The character of a “Proverbs 31 Woman of Excellence” is very attractive to men of honor, and the love story of Ruth and Boaz is a perfect example.

Teens looking for a healthy relationship will enjoy the twists and turns of the love story from the book of Ruth. It has much to teach about blessings born of love, trust, and respect.

Ruth and Boaz: Woman of Excellence, Man of Honor looks closely at these two characters, one an outsider who learns hard work and faith from her bitter mother-in-law, and the other an older bachelor who recognizes the qualities that make a woman faithful and excellent. Together they show how godly relationships can develop in surprising ways. God is always working toward his children’s good.


Teenagers are naturally impatient. They want a chance to DO something, often leaping in when it might be better to watch and wait a while. Teenagers do well to look around for leaders they can learn from – maybe parents, youth leaders, teachers – and follow their examples.

Joshua spent many years as a close observer and assistant to one of the greatest leaders in history. For teens who are looking for leadership role models the life of Joshua is one of the best. The key to great leadership is a close relationship with God. Joshua learned this important wisdom from his mentor, Moses.fullsizeoutput_6c7c

The Bible paints the character of Joshua first as a slave in Egypt, then as assistant to Moses, and later as a conquering leader in the Promised Land. In Joshua, Strong and Courageous, readers are led through the wilderness to see how great leaders develop through all kinds of circumstances. They will learn a lot about God’s character as well.


Life can be very hard and sometimes our mistakes seem to dog us and keep us from becoming the people we are meant to be. Every year, especially at Christmas, some people fall victim to their own lack of hope and come dangerously close to self-destruction.fullsizeoutput_6c80

A close look at the life of Jesus through the experiences of Peter can help teens gain perspective about any mistakes that loom large. They will see that in spite of denying Jesus and losing faith, Peter came back to Jesus because he loved Him.

Then God raised Peter to a full life of “rock star” proportions as he told boldly the gospel story and healed many in the Name of Jesus. The Holy Spirit guided Peter all the rest of his life, and it was not an easy one.The life of discipleship is an antidote to depression. Knowing deep in your heart how much God loves you, no matter what, can keep a heart at peace.fullsizeoutput_654f


The Bible. It’s not really just a dusty old history book, nor is it a stuffy collection of do’s and don’ts. It contains stories of real people who, just like us, struggle to find God. Sometimes the stories show us what not to do, and sometimes they show us God’s amazing patience. The characters within the Bible are not that different from the characters in today’s news headlines. They are certainly not perfect, but some of them are excellent role models.

In the simple solid Bible study guides from Serving One Lord, you will dig into the scriptures and find lovable characters from whom you will learn something about God and godly ways. Try one today. Order from using PayPal or a credit card. A study guide will be on its way to you in no time!

In a Manger



“…You will find the baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.”

Luke 2: 12


We all know the story.  Mary and Joseph were fortunate to find shelter in Bethlehem, even if it was only the rude animal quarters behind the crowded inn.  We know that Mary gave birth in the quiet, dark stable and, having no other option, laid the baby in the manger used to feed the animals every day.  It makes a quaint picture and through the years we have made that image a Christmas icon. 

Baby Jesus in a manger. 

(I have a beautiful carved baby Jesus in a wooden manger.  It must have belonged to a larger nativity set, but I found this one by itself in an antique store once. )

Baby Jesus in a manger.

Is there more to this image than just the circumstances of Mary’s “birthing room?”  I wonder if God would have us ponder this image on another level. 

The word ‘manger’ is from the French word meaning ‘to eat.’  In French Bibles, the word for manger is ‘mangeoir’ or a place for eating.  What do you put in a manger? Food. 

It occurs to me that Jesus is, on some level, food.  John quoted some of Jesus’ thoughts on this in John 6.

          Jesus said, “I am the Bread of life.”  John  6:35

          “For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”  John 6:33

          “ I am the bread of life.  Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down      from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die.  I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”  John 6: 48-51

          “ Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” 

John 6: 57-58


Perhaps God smiled when he saw Jesus laid “in a manger’ knowing that Jesus would be living bread for all the world. 

Just as we take in food to sustain physical life, we must take in Jesus to sustain spiritual life.  Feeding on Jesus, our daily bread, we fuel a life that will never die, a life that grows more abundant and blessed with every passing day and year.

Christmas is more than a birthday with a surprising account of a baby’s birth.  It is God delivering the bread of life to all people on the earth.  And so it is fitting that this bread of heaven is laid in a manger.  Come be filled with this bread of life.