For the despondent, every day brings trouble;
for the happy heart, life is a continual feast.
Proverbs 15:15
New Living Translation

Well, friends, the holidays are over. Is that a good thing? It all depends on how you look at it. Some people are terribly depressed during the holidays. I, myself, have the opportunity to be. I am divorced, my children are grown, I have no one special in my life and I’m all by myself on Christmas morning. But I do have all my family over on Christmas day and I found that I was so busy preparing that I didn’t have much time to think about it. But after Christmas is a different story. I can’t really explain it, but for me, there is such a letdown after the holidays. You cook and you clean; you put up Christmas decorations. You give gifts and you get gifts; you send cards and you get cards from friends you haven’t heard from in a year. You prepare for months for Christmas programs and cantatas. It’s a pretty hyped-up situation. But then…it’s over in one day! Like the old song says, “Is that all there is?” Well, fortunately, it isn’t all there is. The very reason for celebrating Christmas is here year round. Jesus doesn’t leave when the tree is taken down. Christ doesn’t depart when the last gift is opened. The Light of the World isn’t extinguished when the last candle is blown out! It all depends on our focus.

One of the definitions of focus is to render (an object or image) in clear outline or sharp detail by adjustment of one’s vision or an optical device; bring into focus. In this instance, what we have to bring into focus is our “mind’s eye” (or thoughts). Proverbs 23:7 says, “For as he (a man) thinks in his heart, so is he.” What we focus on, dictates our mental, physical and emotional state. If I focus on the fact that I have no partner to share my life with, I can become despondent. But if I focus on the fact that I have two loving children and four beautiful granddaughters that think I’m wonderful, I have a happy heart. If I focus on the fact that I’m getting older, I can definitely become despondent! But if I focus on the fact that I’ve had a wonderful, fulfilling life thus far and it’s not over yet…I have a happy heart.

Let’s look at a more general area. The economy looks bad, doesn’t it? But the Bible tells me that “My God supplies all my needs.” On which thought should I focus? Absolutely every attitude and emotion we have depends on our focus. And be assured of this, it takes time to focus. You can’t glance at something and get a clear picture. Let’s make a resolution to focus on the positive promises in God’s Word this year. Let’s focus on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith. By faith, let’s focus on the right things until we see the glass half full and not half empty. Do you want to have a continual feast this upcoming year? Then, by the grace of God, focus your mind’s eye on the things that cause you to have a happy heart.

May your New Year be free of trouble
And may your life be a continual feast!
Happy New Year!



A Christmas Story by Sherry Crowson Evans

The cool air swirled around her feet giving her an unwelcome chill. The animal beneath her bristled. She wondered about the unknown. The babe kicked from inside the womb, a gentle reminder of what was to come. “Am I ready for this?” she pondered. “God will be my strength,” was the assurance from within. The journey was far. Joseph tirelessly walked onward even though last night he was the watchman. The caravan was slow. The large robust group had made good time and were probably already in Bethlehem. Joseph had insisted they stay behind with the stragglers, the elderly, the sick, and those expecting. The trip would take twice as long but Joseph was right not to take chances with such precious cargo.

The days were grueling with frigid temperatures, rain and sickness all around. Mary’s heart went out to the suffering around her. Mary wished for an end to the days but the nights were worse. Hungry animals prowled the edge of the camp each evening. And rumors of bandits floated throughout the camp from terror stricken lips. Mary knew God would protect them but unwelcome fears still lurked. The days stretched on. Mary dreaded giving birth on the road. Her heart silently pled, “If only we can make it to Bethlehem before the babe arrives.”

When the first pangs began to start, Mary feared they would not make it in time. By the time Bethlehem’s gates were visible the regular spasms caused her to catch her breath…people everywhere, noises and smells. Nausea made her dizzy as Joseph paced determinedly from house to inn in search of a resting place. He could see she was in pain. The furrowed lines etched upon her brow told him that time was short. There was no room. Would No one show any kindness to a young girl when her time had come?

The last innkeeper opened to the knock of Joseph’s shaking hands. “Sir, my wife…” Joseph pled. The desperation in his voice caused the innkeeper to look beyond the man to the young girl atop the mule gritting her teeth amidst the pain. This innkeeper was not known for kindness. He was a business man. But the haunting eyes of the girl in such straights caused him a momentary pause. “You can take her to the Livery. It’s dry and warm there. I can do no better. GO!”

Joseph stood in shocked silence, then quickly gathered his charge and entered the mouth of the cave. Mules with servants milling around parted and made a path when they saw the young girl. The atmosphere was quieter and more serene in this alcove, sheltered from the outside chaos. Female servants hurried over when they realized the state of things. Joseph now searched for a midwife. Time was short. Things were happening too quickly for Mary. This was not what she’d envisioned. The babe was coming in a stable. This was no place for a king! The pains were strong and unlike anything she had ever known. She wished for her mother or sisters. And then it was finished. Cries echoed into the cavern. Mary’s eyes watered at the first sight of this babe. The babe cooed softly and with wide eyed wonder he stared out into the world. His mother searched his eyes. She felt an electricity, an intangible force was felt by all. This babe knew her soul.

The midwife returned with Joseph just in time to see all was well. Joseph felt the power in the room and timidly approached. Gingerly taking his adopted son in his arms for the first time the weight of the responsibility hit him hard. Joseph searched the eyes of the child and wondered if he was able to provide for this small babe of wonder. His eyes were mesmerizing. A peace filled his soul. He was comforted.

Joseph placed the babe in the arms of his mother and looked up all could feel a slight tremor in the air. Everything was changed in the short span of time since the babe had come. People spoke in hushed tones of reverence. The activity of angels was unknown yet overpowering, causing the air to be electric and alive. The babe saw the angels about and giggled aloud sending chills throughout the group of onlookers as his mother smiled at the sound. Outside a solitary star outshone the moon guiding others to share this vision. Shepherds entered the cavern in search of the truth. Unbeknownst to all, this night the universe would never be the same.




This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home
as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.
She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus,
because he will save his people from their sins.”

 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet:
“The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son,
and they will call him Immanuel” —which means, “God with us.”

 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.
Matthew 1:18-24

Think about this scenario: You are a man who is engaged to be married. You are happily awaiting the wedding night when your mutual love will be consummated. You will no longer be two separate entities, but as the Bible says, you will become “one flesh” united with God’s blessing. But all of a sudden, the joyful anticipation is shattered by news unfathomable…the one in whom you have put your trust has seemingly been unfaithful. You know it’s not your child, for you have not yet known her intimately. What are you going to do? You still love her and don’t want to cause her public shame. “Okay, think this over calmly”, you say to yourself. “You can just break off the engagement privately without anyone’s name being dragged through the mud.” You go to bed that night still pondering the situation. Your fretful sleep is further interrupted by…“What is this?…an angel!” He is telling you not to be afraid to take your sweetheart as your wife because the child she is carrying is non-other than the long awaited Messiah and she has conceived by the Holy Spirit, not a mortal man. Your bride-to-be is to be the mother of our Lord! Do you dare believe it? You know what the angel said and you know the message was from God. Then excitement begins to arise as you realize that you also have been chosen…chosen to care for the mother of the very Son of God!

This is the story of Joseph and his part in the birth of Jesus. The Bible says he did exactly as the angel commanded him. He took Mary as his wife, but did not have a marital relationship with her until after Jesus was born. What dedication this man had to the things of God! Think about it. Would you have obeyed the voice of the angel in blind faith? Or would you have attributed the whole dream to a bad case of indigestion? We can still hear the voice of the Lord today if we are listening. He probably won’t send an angel, but He still speaks in that still, small voice deep inside. Will you be like Joseph and believe and obey without question? It’s something to think about.




Since this is the Christmas season and only a short time until Christmas Day, I would like us to focus on events relative to that celebration in our upcoming devotionals. In particular I would like to examine the people who took part in that first Christmas, the birth of our Lord, and their reactions to it. In so doing, I hope that we can get some insight into our own feelings and emotions relating to the season.

In the sixth month God sent the angel Gabriel…to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph.

Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman!
The Lord is with you!”

Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean.

“Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High… his Kingdom will never end!”

Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.”

The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God . . . For nothing is impossible with God.”

Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” And then the angel left her. Luke 1:26-38

Wow! Can you imagine having an angel visit you? Like Mary, you probably would be a little apprehensive, wondering why he was there! Put yourself in her place for a moment and try to think the way she may have thought. You’re busy, going about your everyday life when suddenly an angel appears right in front of you! To say you’re surprised would be an understatement! Afraid…Of course! Apprehensive…No doubt! Confused…inevitably! Well, Mary experienced all of those things as well. But the most important thing recorded relative to Mary’s reaction was submission…obedience to the will of God, and after that…overwhelming peace and joyful anticipation.

We can learn a valuable lesson from Mary’s story. Often when new or unexpected circumstances appear in our lives, we are initially taken by surprise. Then fear tries to grip us, as we become apprehensive about the outcome. Sometimes we are confused, thinking, “Why me?” But if we can ultimately get to the point where we turn it all over to God and submit to His divine will and purpose…If we can trust in His loving kindness and mercy that is new every morning, how can anything but hope arise in our heart? Then, as with Mary, surely overwhelming peace and joyful anticipation of a good outcome will follow!

“. . . For nothing is impossible with God.”




But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah;
your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son,
and you are to call him John. He will be a joy and delight to you,
and many will rejoice because of his birth,
for he will be great in the sight of the Lord.”
Luke 1:13-14

Since we are beginning the celebration of Christmas, I thought we could look at those passages in the Bible that preface this glorious season. It is interesting the perfect order in which God orchestrated the birth of His Son. Old Testament Prophets, not only foretold His birth, but they told of a forerunner that would come to prepare the hearts of the people to receive Him. That forerunner was John the Baptist born to the High Priest Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth.

An angel appeared to Zechariah while he was ministering in the Holy of Holies in the temple. As you can imagine, Zechariah was petrified! In those days if the High Priest had any sin in his life when he came to minister, he was smitten and died. Maybe Zechariah thought the angel was there to give him a death sentence. Certainly he never dreamed that he would be the messenger of such wonderful news. Although Zechariah and Elizabeth were well beyond child bearing age, the angel told him that they were going to have a son. And although scripture indicates that they had been praying a long time for such a miracle, Zechariah doubted the word of the angel. He said, “How do I know that this will come to pass?” I think that is a statement that he regretted for quite some time, for the angel said, “This is how you will know. You will not be able to talk until your son is born.” Talk about something rendering you speechless! The angel went on to say that they should name the child John. When Zechariah’s speech was restored, friends and neighbors asked him, “What do you want to name him…Zechariah, Jr.?” “No”, he said, “We will call him John!” Zechariah was not going to make the mistake of questioning the angel twice!

But like Zechariah, are there times that we have been praying for something for so long that it has become more a ritual than an inspiration? And like Zechariah, if the answer came now, would we be in shock and disbelief? We need to keep our faith alive by continually feeding on the promises in God’s Word. Then we will live expecting our prayers to be answered…maybe even today!

Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray,
believe that you receive them, and you will have them.
Mark 11:24




“Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son,
and they shall call His name Emmanuel,”
which is translated,
“God with us.”
Matthew 1:23

At this time of year, the Christmas season, most people are amiable. Even those who normally are a little hard to get along with seem to reach down inside and muster up an ounce of cheer…but why? Why is this time of year any different than any other? It is because Christmas is the time of year that we not only celebrate the concept of love, but the birth of love. Love actually became flesh and dwelt among us. One of my favorite passages of scripture is Matthew 1:23 which says, “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.” Don’t you just love it…“GOD WITH US!” Before Jesus was born, man did not have direct access to God. They had to go through the High Priest. But God didn’t like it that way. He wanted to have a personal relationship with His children. He wanted to be touchable. So the very essence of His being came to earth in the form of a baby born to a virgin…not just any baby, but His own Son. Even the Prophet Isaiah in Old Testament times predicted it saying, “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14) He goes on in the next chapter to say, “(Enemy), Devise your strategy, but it will be thwarted; propose your plan, but it will not stand, for God is with us.” (Isaiah 8:10)

I want you to know today that God is with YOU! When that baby was born in the City of Bethlehem so many years ago, God became accessible to you!  Immanuel…God with us! The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)  “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” (John 14:9) And like Isaiah, because of Immanuel, we can say to the enemy of our faith, “Devise your strategy, but it will be thwarted; propose your plan, but it will not stand, for GOD IS WITH US!” Glory to God in the highest!




The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord,
And He [God] delights in his way.
Psalm 37:23

I have been thinking lately about how the Lord plans our lives and our steps. He says so right here in His Word. Listen to how The Message Bible says it, “Stalwart [man] walks in step with God; his path blazed by God, he’s happy. If he stumbles, he’s not down for long; God has a grip on his hand.” How totally awesome is that! Webster’s defines the word stalwart as “marked by outstanding strength and vigor of body, mind or spirit.” So, do the plans God has for us manifest in spite of our own response? Think about this …can two people accomplish a common goal if they are walking in opposite directions? No, it’s impossible. Suppose someone very reliable says to you, “Walk with me to the bank and I’ll make a withdrawal and give you a large sum of money?” How foolish it would be for you to turn and walk in the other direction. And yet, how many times do we as Christians willfully plan our own way without even consulting our Heavenly Father? And how many heartaches and setbacks has it caused us in our quest for happiness?

How wonderful it would be if we could consistently walk in step with Him by following the leading of the Holy Spirit. And how can we accomplish that? You cannot recognize a person’s voice unless you have spent time with him, listening to him, memorizing his inflections and intonations. So it is with hearing the voice of God and following His leading. As we spend time with Him, learning to hear His voice and walk in cadence with His steps, our path to happiness and fulfillment is blazed before us. He takes the sword of His Word and cuts a path through the jungle of worry, fear and unrest that try to block us from the path of success that He has specifically laid out for us.

As for myself, I know one thing, or should I say two things, that have caused me to break cadence and stray into enemy territory. They are the culprits of impatience and self-will. “God, it is taking you entirely too long. I’ll just handle this one myself.” We wouldn’t dare say those words, but how many times have we thoughtlessly acted them out? I have many a battle scar incurred along this pathway of disobedience. But thank God for His mercy and grace. We can find our way back onto His pathway of peace at any time by repentance…simply changing our mind and falling into step with Him once again. If we really believe that God has planned our way, there will be no place in our lives for worry or trepidation. As we rest in Him, we know that whatever comes our way has to come through His hand and He will either lead us out or lead us through.

“Holy Father, as I walk in step with You;
I thank you that my path is blazed by You and I’m happy.
If I stumble, I’m not down for long;
For You, Father, have a grip on my hand.”