During this time of year, we run around like crazy attending parties, hosting friends and family, decorating, baking, wrapping and shopping, and we are worked into a frenzy by the time Christmas actually gets here. In almost every store, we witness the words “PEACE” on Christmas cards, banners hanging from the ceiling, wrapping paper and coffee mugs, but in reality, there is none of it to be found in our lives. Will you imagine with me for a moment Jesus standing in front of you today and handing you a beautifully wrapped gift box? He affectionately says, “This is from Me just for you.” And then, can you imagine if we politely thanked our Lord and tossed His gift under the tree! We like to think that we would never have such gall; yet every day Jesus offers us His gift of peace, and we summarily dismiss it.

This problem is not new. In fact, the disciples were offered this same gift of peace but struggled to receive it as well. In the days leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion, Jesus was preparing His followers for the trouble ahead, and He said, “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me.” (John 14:1) Jesus knew that the battle the disciples would face was more than they could handle, so He warned them: Don’t let your hearts get troubled. Let me stop here because this statement leads me to believe that we have a choice. We can let our hearts get troubled, or we cannot let our hearts get troubled. How is this possible! When trouble comes, do I really have a choice whether or not to let my heart get troubled? Jesus knew that the disciples would face an intense battle when He was led away, and He warned them to keep their hearts fixed on Him, trusting in Him. Jesus knew that the disciples’ hearts would want to follow the trouble, follow the fear and follow the uncertainty, but He quickly supplied the answer: Trust in Me. Instead of following our thoughts or feelings down a terrible path of fear, stress and worry, we are to turn our thoughts to Jesus and trust in Him.

In response to Jesus’ directive, the disciples responded much in the same way as we do now, with many questions. But here was Jesus’ answer: “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” (John 14:27) Jesus hands them a gift that will keep them from being troubled or afraid—His gift of peace. And He offers that same gift to us today. If we keep reading in John 14, we will discover that Jesus’ gift of peace comes through the power of the Holy Spirit who lives in us. Jesus knows that we cannot stop our hearts from being troubled, so He gave us a supernatural gift, the Holy Spirit, who will keep us in perfect peace. As I studied this passage more, I decided to write down some of the attributes of the Holy Spirit to help me understand and trust more. According to the Bible, look at some of the qualities of the Holy Spirit:

   •Comforter—one who soothes, consoles, reassures
   •Counselor—one who advises, gives direction
   •Helper—one who provides what is necessary to accomplish a task or satisfy a need
   •Intercessor—one who petitions on behalf of someone in difficulty
   •Advocate—one who speaks in defense of a person
   •Strengthener—one who gives strength to or makes stronger
   •Standby—one who can be relied upon
   •Spirit of Truth—one who speaks truth and exposes lies
   •Teacher—one who gives instruction
   •Spirit of Power—one who supplies with supernatural power

The Holy Spirit, who lives in us as Christians, provides each one of these gifts directly to us. If our heart is troubled because the holidays are a difficult reminder of those we have lost, then we can have peace because the Holy Spirit is our Comforter. He will soothe our soul and reassure us that we are not alone. Although we will still miss our loved ones, we can have peace because God is with us. If our heart is troubled because we are financially strapped, then we can have peace because the Holy Spirit is Counselor and Helper. He will give us wisdom to make the right decisions and will help us where we have need. If our heart is troubled because one of our loved ones does not know Jesus, then we can have peace because the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Power. We can ask that He supernaturally impact our unsaved friends and family members so that they may see Jesus. Regardless of the trouble facing our heart, the Holy Spirit provides the answer so that we may have peace.

Jesus has personally wrapped a gift of peace just for you, complete with ribbon and sparkling paper. What will you do with His gift? Today is the day to take a moment and receive. Read over the characteristics of the Holy Spirit and ask Him to help you in whatever area you have need. Our Savior loves to give, and He wants you to walk through this season proudly displaying and sharing His wonderful gift of peace.
Your Father

"I have hidden Your word in my heart that I might not sin against You."      
                            Psalm 119:11                  
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This is the season for giving, and though it is better to give than to receive, I will confess that I do enjoy receiving on occasion. I love those little gifts made from popsicle sticks, glue and glitter that my boys used to make for me, or the sweet gifts my husband gives where I knew he has had to trudge through the masses at overcrowded department stores, pore through the horrors of earrings and bracelets, and then wait in eternal lines just to pick out something he thinks I will like. And then there are the precious gifts from my brother who knows I love the Dallas Cowboys or my mom who knows I love everything silver. However, as wonderful as each one of those gifts are, there is a particularly priceless gift that our wonderful Savior has given us that I think we leave unopened under the tree—His gift of peace.
to be ashamed to admit this to Him. Sometimes we like to put on a brave face and declare that we are fully trusting, but He sees everything and already knows that we are having a hard time. He understands that trusting is difficult for us; He understands why it is difficult; and He understands what it will take to get us to the point where we can wholly trust Him. One thing you can be assured of is that God is not worried because you struggle with trusting. He has a plan to teach you how to trust Him fully, and He only asks that you yield to that plan. So, in order to help us practice trusting God on a daily basis, we are going to look to a new kind of declaration—our Declaration of Dependence in Christ. Here are five statements from the truth of God’s Word which will hold us steady when our trust begins to waver.

Declaration of Dependence in Christ

1. I trust God because He loves me deeply. (Eph. 3:18-19)
We can put our trust in God because He loves us so much. If we truly understood how much God loves us, then we would have no trouble trusting Him. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (Amplified) gives us a glimpse of how God views us through His love—“He is patient with us and willing to endure through long stretches. God’s love is not touchy or resentful and keeps no record of wrongs. God is not smug when we fail but rather rejoices in even our smallest steps. God believes the best in us and always trusts. God’s love toward us will never fail.” These words are too great for us to fully comprehend, but the one thing we can know for sure—God loves us deeply. Since He loves us so much, since He will always look out for our best interest, since He will do nothing towards us without love, God can be trusted.

2.  I trust God because He is always with me. (Deut. 31:8)
We can put our trust in God because He is always with us. God promises to never leave us or abandon us. Maybe you feel all alone right now, but I want you to picture this promise. Right where you are, God is with you. Sometimes visualizing this promise helps us to believe it more. Can you see Him walking with you, sitting next to you at your job, or riding in the car with you? How much better would you feel right now if you could actually see God with you? He promises you that He is there, and He says that He is not leaving—not ever.

3.  I trust God because He takes care of me. (Psalm 112:7)
We can put our trust in God because He takes care of us. In fact, God LOVES to take care of us. This concept is hard for me because I tend to be an independent person. In fact, my husband frequently calls me “Bootstraps” because of the “pick-myself-up-by-my-own-bootstraps” mentality I espouse. Whenever I shun his help in order to do some task by myself, he just smiles and coyly says, “Okay, Bootstraps.” But this “bootstraps” mentality has been an obstacle for me in learning to trust God. Independence says, “I can handle this problem myself, and I will figure out what to do,” putting the burden directly on my own shoulders. But dependence puts the burden squarely on God’s shoulders and trusts Him to be in control. The important concept for us to understand is that God will not pry open our fingers and wrestle that problem out of our hand. At some point, we must loosen our tight grip and hand our situation over to God. He is ready and waiting because He loves taking care of us.

4.  I trust God because His Word is true. (Psalm 33:4)
We can put our trust in God because His Word is true. Our trust is most often broken when someone’s word is broken. Someone makes a promise to us, but then he or she does not follow through with that promise. Each time this happens, trust is harder to attain—broken promises create broken trust. But for every person who has experienced broken trust due to a broken promise, I have great news! God will never, ever break His promise to you.

5.  I trust God because He is in control. (Isaiah 45:5-7)
We can put our trust in God because He is in control. Oftentimes we feel like our boss is in control, or our finances are in control, or our sickness is in control. Sometimes we feel like the devil is controlling what is happening to us, or the sin of this world is spinning us out of control. Other times we feel that we are in control, and the responsibility lays heavily on us. But we must remember—GOD IS IN CONTROL. He is Almighty God, and there is NOTHING outside of His control.

Well, this is our Declaration of Dependence: In God We Trust! If we truly believe each of these five statements, then we can safely put our trust in God. For most of us, full-blown, unwavering, unflinching trust is a process, but as a loving Father, God will walk us down this unfamiliar path of learning to trust Him completely. There will be times when He will gently hold our shaky hands and walk us into new territory. And then there will be moments when He will stand with arms open wide and ask us to jump! But in every case, I want to make the leap into deeper faith. Not just because of the great reward of peace and joy that I will receive, but because Jesus deserves my trust. And Jesus deserves your trust. He has never lied, never deceived, never forgotten, never broken a promise, and never turned His love away from you or me. So take a step with me today and stretch forth your faith towards the One who gave everything for you.

Happy "In Dependence" Day!

Based on excerpt from Worry, Keep Out!
"I have hidden Your word in my heart that I might not sin against You."      
                               Psalm 119:11                  
To Receive Monthly Devotionals,
Click Here
Since we are celebrating our nation’s Independence Day this month, I thought this  would be a good time to celebrate our “In Dependence" Day with God. One of the greatest moments in our nation’s history was the writing of the Declaration of Independence. This glorious document proudly proclaimed our country to be one nation under God, declaring its full independence from Great Britain. But as Christians, we have an even greater declaration--a life of freedom in Jesus Christ. And in order for us to enjoy the benefits, we must assert a different declaration, not one of independence but one of dependence.

Now, maybe you are like me and have a hard time fully trusting anyone, even God. But here’s the good news. God already knows that you struggle with trust, so you don’t have