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Howdy!  I apologize that it has been a long time since I posted anything.  In the middle of my ADVENT series, our family got sick.  We licked it in two days, only to have another sickness come back with a vengeance after our kids returned to school.  We spent the whole Christmas Holiday sick, hence so few posts. I think I will complete the ADVENT posts at a later date, in anticipation of next Christmas and re-post them at that time, with some editing.  (When I’m tired I tend to type too much!  I think I embody the term “ruminative writing”…I can hear my Written and Oral Communications prof shout “Cut the fluff!”  Ah, editing, how I love thee…)

I hope you had a Happy Christmas and a wonderful New Year.  This is the time of the year when we set goals and resolutions; this is all very well and good.  However, unless we were given superpowers as a gift at Christmas (!) few of us have acquired the necessary character and ability to keep our resolutions!  We know where we’d like to go this year, but we don’t have the steam to get there.  This Word-UP Wednesday is about a little-used practice that helps us not only set our compass in the right direction, but receive the God-power we need to get there: fasting!

Our first outside source is an interesting site called daniel-fast.com (which also has a blog on wordpress)  According to author Susan Gregory, the Daniel Fast is a restricted vegan diet practiced for up to three weeks.  It is based on Daniel chapters 1 and 10 where the prophet-statesman Daniel fasted from meat, bread, and wine and focused on eating vegetables and drinking water to humble himself before God as he prayed (presumably, three times a day as was his custom).  The word vegetables in Hebrew has been expounded to define anything growing from a seed–including seeds themselves–so that fruit, whole grains, legumes, and nuts are included.  Because this is a fast that includes solid foods, it can be maintained for an extended period of time: traditionally, for three weeks, the time it took for Daniel to receive an answer to prayer when he fasted as recorded in the book of Daniel, chapter 10.

Source: Uploaded by user via Amanda on Pinterest

Susan Gregory has developed recipe books on her website so give you ideas how to fast.  Recipes can be made for the whole family, adding meat and dairy for children or making modifications for family members with health concerns.  Here are some free recipes that should be easy to make.  I came up with a few of my own, which I hope will make it into a Recipe thuRsday post this week (like the Salsa-Stuffed Peppers above).

Our second outside source is a local area church (Bethany Assembly) who is doing the 21-day fast as part of its series on gaining Momentum in the New Year.  If you’d like to join in, here are short, daily devotionals–statements of faith and prayers based on Scripture–that accompany each of the 21 days.

Our third outside source (Jentezen Franklin Media Ministries) is a short outline of a Daniel Fast used to ask God for healing.  The website also has fasting contracts that responsible family members can sign and keep each other accountable to.

Explanations of the spiritual benefits and reasons for the fast are given at the above sites.  I hope you will use them to celebrate the New Year in a way that keeps you running strong in Hope until the next year (and beyond).  God really does speak to us when we seek Him with diligence!

Helping of Hope.  Right Choice: Use Daniel-Fasting to ask God FIRST what He may accomplish through you this year; humble yourself (through denying certain foods and acknowledging your dependence on Him) to bring yourself in agreement with His much better plan for you.  Bright Future: a greater power at work in your life to transform you into someone God can use to defeat giants, move mountains, and minister to hurting people!

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Here is today’s Calendar…another row completed!  Half-way to Christmas Eve!

December 12th | The Promised Land

Please read these Bible verses first!

Bible Background: The “Promised Land” is the land that God promised to Abraham and his descendants, the land called Canaan. It represented God’s place of rest for His people; a place where there would be no suffering or hard work. Moses wasn’t allowed to enter into the Promised Land because he abused his power in anger (Numbers 20). Joshua was Moses’ apprentice since his youth and a mighty warrior. The River Jordan is a place of change; whenever it is mentioned in the Bible, you can be sure God is about to change something significant (Reuben, Dick.  Our Great High Priest.  [MP3.] 1995).

Bible Study Question: God’s promise of the Promised Land has a double meaning. The first meaning is the physical land of Canaan. Read John 14:1-3 and Hebrews 4:6-10: what else does the Promised Land represent?

Today’s Main Idea: Moses couldn’t convince the first generation of the liberated Hebrews to trust God; he died in the wilderness with them, never setting foot in Canaan. In a similar way, the Law can’t force us have faith in God and enter His place of rest. God had to kill off the disbelief in His people to raise a new generation with a new spirit (attitude) that was determined to inherit God’s promises. Sometimes we have to go through our own wilderness until everything that is disbelieving, discontented, suspecting, and self-destructive dies off in us and we are finally prepared to live life God’s way.  We can go to church all our lives and still be Prodigal at heart!  It takes so much for us to be willing to trust Him, truly trust Him, in a way that forever shapes and changes our attitudes as well as our behavior.  Think how much bolder and more accurate our prayers would be if we truly trusted God and took Him at His Word; we could see more miracles and answered prayers if we would approach God in belief–not just for the things He can do–but in a revelatory acknowledgment of His care, provision, and good plans for us.  What a load of care we would lay at His feet!  What difficulties we would overcome in His Name!  A Promised Land “on this side of the Jordan”, in the land of the living, that would certainly be!

Jesus is a lot like Joshua:

  1. He was raised under the Mosaic Law in much the same way that Joshua was trained by Moses.
  2. Jesus was baptized in the river Jordan at the beginning of His ministry at the same spot that Joshua had to lead Israel through the Jordan in order to get them to the Promised Land (Stone, Perry.  The Melchisedec Priesthood. [Online Digital.] November 16 2012) !
  3. In fact, the name Jesus is Aramaic; since Jesus was a Jew, his Hebrew name was also Joshua!

Jesus is preparing our place of Rest; we have to enter it by faith in Him.

Application:  Jesus is associated with Peace at Christmas.  The angels heralded it.  We sing about it…”All is calm, all is bright“…yet for many of us, we never enter into His rest, into that state of inner peace that is a preview of eternal peace.  Ironically, Christmas can be the most stressful and least peaceful time of all!  A lot of our restlessness centers around two things; (1) worry and (2) complaining.  These things plagued the unbelieving generation of Hebrews wandering (and ultimately buried) in the wilderness.

If we want to experience God’s peace this Christmas, we need to trust Him.  We need to trust He will give us the words and inspire the actions to endure conflicts with a godly attitude that promotes His peace.  We need to trust Him if He puts limits on our consciences to what we can buy, what we can eat, and how to celebrate so we can have a peace about what we are doing.  We need to trust that if we keep Him first, this Christmas will be a meaningful one even if it isn’t as lavish as we would have liked, even if nothing went to plan, because He IS our peace.

Trusting God in practical terms does mean obeying Him, but it also means refusing to worry and refusing to complain.  Let’s ask God for what we need…with thanksgiving!   Let’s give Him our worries…with praise!  Let’s invite Jesus, the Prince of Peace, to make Himself manifest in our lives this Christmas by submitting our restless souls to the government that rests upon His shoulders, and trust that He will make good on every promise as He brings Divine change into our lives.  He will deliver us into His Rest.

Prayer:  Father God, please help me to trust You with all my heart. Please remove the parts of me that won’t obey You. Give me the courage and strength you gave Joshua and Jesus to accomplish mighty things. Help me to enter Your promised rest. In Jesus’ Name; Amen.

Family Activity: Desert Diorama. Arrange damp sand and rocks in a small tray to make a desert scene. Cut Q-Tips ™ in half to make Hebrews with cotton heads and stick bodies. Color their heads to make faces with markers. Use markers and construction paper to make clothes for your Q-Tip™ Hebrews/Israelites. Leave the bottom third of the stick untouched so you can poke your Q-Tip™ into the sand. Act out some of the scenes from the Exodus.

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First of all, I’d like to say that I am not picky with the term “special needs” ; I think today’s Mama Mondays post can help EVERY child!  A child does not need to have a diagnosed impairment to require extra care and attention.  Strong-willed children have special needs; “picky” children have special needs; sensitive or insecure children have special needs.  Most children require a little extra help regulating anticipation and delaying gratification; Christmas can cause a lot of stress even in “normal” children with all the promises of upcoming parties and presents and the delay in realizing them.

For some children who have no concept of time, however, anticipating joyful events can be extremely painful: all promises of future enjoyment swirl around tantalizingly at the same time, all demanding immediate attention, creating a cacophony of desires, worries, and expectations that make present fun unenjoyable and future fun seem irreducibly distant.  Not only are such children miserable, but their parents are usually worn thin with unceasing requests (I think there is probably a version of PTSD that applies to us parents of autistic children in particular!)  No answer we give is satisfactory because the repetition is really a cry for help to sort out what is going on.  Our children are lost in their own desires and have no internal framework for our verbal answers to help them.  We can say, “We are going to Grandma’s on Christmas Day” a thousand times (in response to a thousand, genuinely distraught requests for Grandma’s house), but it has no meaning.  When is Christmas Day?  Is it now?  Is it later?  Will it never come?

Part of the difficulty in hearing those repetitive requests–from an autistic child or otherwise confused or disappointed child–is because our hearts go out to our children when we see how much they struggle with understanding what is going on.  We want to help them; because we have no personal difficulty relating words to concepts of time sometimes we forget that some children cannot visualize what time is like.  Even if our children are fairly well-regulated most of the time, the excitement of Christmas may be enough to disconnect whatever the child may understand of time and cause them to revert to a more immature understanding.  In either case, it is immensely helpful to have an EXTERNAL reference the child can see to teach or reinforce WHEN to expect certain events.

Below, I have created a very simple “Sliding Visual Schedule”.  You could make it in less than an hour.  If you use it faithfully each day and try to stick to a similar routine each week, the repetitive requests for certain events or people should be noticeably curtailed over the next few days and weeks.  Special Schedules can be made for certain times of the year (especially if your child is off school and off schedule); Thanksgiving schedules or Christmas Schedules, for example, can be introduced by saying, “We are going to have a different schedule this week because it is Thanksgiving.  You can help me move the Day Slide over and the Activity Slide down.”

Of course, it may be useful not to mention any events in advance at all because this can be very confusing to children with special needs; if, however, your child is already anticipating or requesting something, this Sliding Visual Schedule should function as external scaffolding upon which an internal sense of time can be developed to put the desired outcome in its proper place.  Once the child has a visual understanding of what is going on, verbal reminders (with pointing to the schedule) are useful to reinforce the concept: “We are going to Grandma’s house on Christmas Day, here (point).  Today (point) is Christmas Eve; we are watching a Christmas movie tonight.  Tomorrow (point) we will go to Grandma’s.  We are still here (point) today and our day is not finished yet.”  Now your words make more sense!

I printed an 11 row x 8 column table, with five simple activities each day of the week (you can use Excel or Open Office Calc, etc.). I used clip art to paste into the larger cells and wrote a descriptive phrase for each activity in the cells underneath. It is extremely important not to clutter your schedule with every activity you plan to do each day: your child only needs to know the “high-points” that will help him pace himself through the day.  Keeping it simple will help your child not to become overly rigid with his schedule and will give you more grace to adjust plans as needed (avoiding further confusion or disappointment!)

The vertical piece of card (“Day Slide”) is slightly taller than the page: a v-shaped cut helps it to hang on the top of the page as it slides horizontally. The horizontal piece of card (“Activity Slide”) has two v-shaped cuts on each side that help it to slide vertically; friction helps it to stay in place so it is important not to space the cuts too far apart.

I put our schedule on the ‘fridge and secure the bottom of the Day Slide with a weak magnet that holds it in place without impeding its movement.  Within three to four days our autistic child’s request for Grandma’s house reduced to almost nothing (by comparison): she now only asks for Grandma’s house when she is upset or confused about what we are doing (i.e. whenever there is a deviation from the schedule…she is still trying to figure out how going to Grandma’s house relates to each activity we are doing!)  This is a significant improvement from being asked every five minutes (yes, literally that often!) if she can go to Grandma’s house.

I am going to give God the credit for this one.  Not only was I beside myself with frustration and concern for our autistic child’s unceasing requests but I had completely forgotten how important visual scheduling can be.  I asked God for help and this idea popped into my head.  In the spirit of Christmas I can genuinely say: Glory to God in the highest, and on earth PEACE among those with whom He is pleased!  I wish you and your children the same this year (and for the next).

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Here is today’s Advent Calendar (click on the image for more information):

December 9th | A New Identity

Please read these Bible verses first!

Bible Background: Israel (Jacob) was Abraham’s grandson and the father of twelve sons, the fathers of the tribes of Israel. From Israel would come a tiny nation set apart to receive God’s laws, words, and ultimately, the Redeemer for the whole world.  Today we call Israel’s descendants “Jews” though they aren’t all from the tribe of Judah (this is ethnic Jewry, which is separate from religious Jewry: not all ethnic Jews are Jewish by religion.  This is why it is possible for an ethnic Jew to become a Christian and still be Jewish in culture and ethnicity; Messianic Jews are Christian Jews who see Christianity as the fulfillment of Judaism). Gentiles are non-Jews; people who don’t come from the man Israel; the Bible typically refers to Gentiles as “the nations”.  The Church is the group of people (Jews and Gentiles) who believe in Jesus as the Redeemer; we are all united by a common faith in Christ.

Bible Study Question: Compare Genesis 32:29-30 (see first link under devotional title) with Judges 13: could Jacob’s “man” be the Angel of the Lord? Compare Judges 13:18 to Isaiah 9:6; what other name is Wonderful?

Today’s Main Idea: Jacob means “supplanter or deceiver”. When the mysterious “man” asked him what his name was, it forced him to consider its meaning: Jacob realized that all his life he had been deceiving others!  When Jacob gave his name, it was an admission of guilt. (Meyer, Joyce.  Enjoying Everyday Life. [TV Broadcast.] January 9, 2012)  When we admit what we have done, who we have become, and repent, Jesus gives us a new name and a new identity. We get to take part in His blessing.

God promised in the Old Testament that He would bring many nations to Himself to share in this blessing (given first to Abraham, then Isaac, and to Jacob). In Romans chapter 11, the Apostle Paul explains using a tree analogy: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are like the roots of a tree and the Jews are the branches. The Jews that reject salvation from Abraham’s descendant (Jesus the Messiah or Christ) are cut off the tree; the Gentiles that accept salvation from Abraham’s descendant are grafted in. In the end, Abraham’s tree has branches of Jews and Gentiles that all believe in Jesus.  The blessings that were given to the roots of the tree–the Patriarchs–are ours through faith in Christ.  Remember that God promised Abraham that through him–through his descendant (Jesus) represented by Isaac on the altar at Mount Moriah–all the nations of the earth would be blessed.

This identity crisis caused problems in Jesus’ day: many of the Jews thought their ethnicity alone was sufficient to get them into heaven, or that their strict adherence to religious law and tradition would guarantee favor with God.  However, God has always been the same;  He is only ever pleased with faith.  External things like observances and ethnicity make no difference: God looks at the heart.  He wants us to be a people who will struggle with Him to find out what we are really like, repent, receive a new identity from Him, and walk away–humbled by the experience, aware of our shortcomings–with a blessing we can’t contain!  That’s how He gets the glory so that others will see what He is like and come to Him as we have.

Application: At Christmas, we wrestle with schedules, relatives, turkeys, children, finances, wrapping paper…only to find that we are really a little too wrapped up in ourselves!  Who we really need to wrestle with is…God; He is the One who helps us to realize where we are truly at.  Jacob was alone when he encountered God; perhaps we need to step away from Christmas busyness and plans and consider where our identity lies.  Do we rely on our ethnicity, gender, denomination, economic status, job description or nationality for our primary identity, or do we primarily identify with the Source of all blessing Himself, Jesus?  Are we simply those who have wrestled with God and man (ourselves) and won?  There is something humbling about admitting who we would be without Jesus; we need to remember that God doesn’t call people who have it all together (including their theology), or who think they are OK living life without His direct involvement.  God longs for people who, in our weakness and failure, will grab hold of Him by faith and not let Him go until He gives us the blessing we so desperately need.  At Christmas, God made this task much easier for us: the manger and the cross both show us the depths God will sink to and the length He will go to secure both our blessing and our identity in Him.  All we need to do is receive them by faith in Jesus.

Prayer: Father God, thank You for making Your Covenant available to me regardless of whether I am a Jew or Gentile. Help me to wrestle with You in the right way so I can find out whom You made me to be. I want to receive Your blessings for me and show others Your power in me. In Jesus’ Name; Amen.”

Family Activity: Door-Tag. Help your children to find out what their name means and see if you can find a Bible verse of promise, encouragement, or blessing to go with it (if you can’t, pick one that tells them who they are in Jesus: do a Bible search for the phrase “in Christ” or “in Him” and find a verse that communicates your wishes for them). Cut out a 4” x 11” rectangle from a piece of foam sheet. Cut a 3” diameter circle out of it, centered 2” below the top. Write your name below the hole, followed by its meaning and your Bible Verse. Every time they enter their room they can remember that it is God who gives us our identity and a blessing!

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This is the DVD set I have. Each session is 35 minutes; there is one session per DVD. The DVDs come with two sound tracks: one with Michelle speaking/giving directions and the other one with just music. Once you are familiar with the routine, you can use the music only session and allow the music to minister to you as you workout. Personally, I like to hear what Michelle has to say!

Today’s product recommendation is the show that encouraged me to start on my whole foods journey.  It is a fitness workout show that airs on a couple Christian channels and it is AWESOME!  The host of Faithful Workouts, Michelle Spadafora, is encouraging, uplifting, and professional.  She worked for many years as a fitness trainer and has found a way to make her own show incorporating Christian music and Biblical encouragement.  Her show encompasses all four of A Helping of Hope’s “F’s” (Faith, Family, Food, and Fun) and that’s why it is getting the STYDS bump from me:

  • FAITH: there is a lot of upbeat spiritual encouragement in Faithful Workouts.  Michelle shares personal stories, devotional thoughts, and edifying truths…how she does it so simply and succinctly is amazing!  It transforms a physical workout into a spiritual massage for the inner person!
  • FAMILY: some workouts include children: in fact, this is a workout you can do with the whole family. You can cleverly reinforce Biblical concepts in your children while promoting a healthy self-image and helping them get a foundation in making healthy choices.
  • FOOD: Michelle gives a lot of encouragement and advice for making a transition to a healthy diet (she comes from a “low calorie” perspective, which I don’t, but her advice on sugars, fruits and vegetables, and whole grains is spot on).  Hearing these simple, positive reminders repeatedly helps to change mindsets; we really can change the way we eat!
  • FUN: Three people workout with Michelle regularly: two women and one man.  They each work out at different “levels”.  The neat thing is, they aren’t perfect!  Occasionally, they wobble and giggle; this doesn’t take away from the quality of the workout at all, instead it emphasizes how accessible healthy living is to normal people.  We don’t have to be perfect bodybuilders…but we do need to work hard and work smart.  Michelle’s workouts include exercises for balance as well as toning; it is a lot of fun seeing personal progress over time as the movements become easier to do well.

Faithful Workouts DVDs are available here.  I have the “Loving God’s Way” 3 DVD set.  It helps to have exercise bands (also available on the site), an exercise ball, and an exercise mat, but they aren’t necessary.  I did the workouts for a long time without them by doing the low-impact version of the exercises.  I got mine as a Christmas present from my parents: if you know of a loved one who has been looking for a whole-body workout program, why not give them the gift of health and encouragement this Christmas?

Helping of Hope. Right Choice: work out regularly to upbeat, uplifting shows like Faithful Workouts three times a week (see, a 3 DVD set is perfect!)  Bright Future: much improved physical, emotional, and spiritual health…and perhaps, a reclaimed figure after this Season’s festivities? 😉

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Thank you for continuing into another week of our family’s seven-year-old tradition!  Here is today’s Calendar (click on the image below for more information):

December 8th | When God Comes First

Please read these easy-to-follow Bible verses first.

Bible Background: Isaac and Jesus were both “only sons” (Isaac’s older brother Ishmael had been kicked out of Abraham’s camp earlier) and they are both involved with covenant. Because of this Isaac is called a “picture” or “type” of Christ; God asked Abraham to act out what would happen to Jesus in the future so we would understand what to expect.  God was moved by Abraham’s willingness to submit to His plan to sacrifice an only son.  That plan was ultimately carried out in the same geographic location, but many hundreds of years later, by Jesus.

Bible Study Question: What did Abraham think would happen to Isaac after he was sacrificed? How is this similar to what happened to Jesus?

Today’s Main Idea: Abraham believed God would give him a son…but he had to wait fifteen years before Isaac was born. Abraham had to go through a lot of stressful situations while he was waiting. Finally he had a son! It would have been easy to think that Isaac was the solution to all of his problems, but Abraham never forgot that it was God who gave him a son in the first place. Abraham was willing to keep God first even if it meant giving up the rights to his only son.

Jesus is God’s only Son. When we see the story of Isaac and the ram, we can understand through Abraham’s eyes how God the Father must have felt to see his only Son die to save us from sin. God had no intention of letting Abraham kill Isaac; He was only testing His obedience, to see if Abraham truly believed in the Promise He had given to him. Abraham did not have the Bible to look at so the request was a true test. Now that we have the Bible, God will never ask us to disobey it; such a request is not a true test from God because the Bible already has the answers!  Even without the Bible and the benefit of the Gospels specifically, Abraham still believed in the resurrection of his son and the coming of the Christ to atone for all sin.  Abraham learned a lot on Mount Moriah; for his obedience, he had a chance to peer into the future through the sacrifice of an only son.

Application: At Christmas, we look to many things to make us happy (and aren’t we easily irritated when they aren’t done “right”!).  There are occasions when those things are taken away from us.  Joblessness may require that we do Christmas on a much tighter budget; a broken-down car may interrupt our annual plans to visit a relative; an illness may cause us to not be able to participate in the festivities at all.  In all of these difficulties, is God first?  Is He the Source of our happiness, or have we put the Christmas blessings He has given us above Him?  Abraham was willing to part with his son because he believed it would only be temporary; he didn’t doubt God’s benevolent nature and he trusted God’s promise that Isaac would be his heir.  When things go wrong this Christmas–from the smallest expectation left unmet to the largest disappointment possible–we are being tested where our priorities really lie.  Is our priority the Christ of Christmas or our own entertainment?  The good news is that Jesus can be with us even in the most modest of celebrations (He was born in a stable, after all!), the worst of circumstances (an unwed mother who traveled by donkey), and the deepest of weaknesses (God Almighty came to us as a vulnerable, naked infant!)  Your experience of Christmas this year may be truer to the original one (!); if Abraham’s experience is anything to go by, it will bring you closer to the real Christ than you have ever been before!

Prayer: Father God, everything comes from You, even I! Thank you for being the Source of all blessing. Help me to keep You first; there is more joy in knowing Jesus than in all the happenstance of Christmas. In Jesus’ Name; Amen.

Family Activity: Clean out your closet! Help your children to go through their rooms and separate their belongings (toys, clothes, hobbies, etc) into three piles: one pile of belongings that are used regularly, one pile of belongings that are retained for sentimental reasons but are rarely used, and one pile of belongings that aren’t used very often.  Help your children to give the third pile away to charity, put the second pile away neatly and store to go through later, and share the first pile with siblings and friends. Remind your children that by putting our possessions in their proper place, we can keep God in His: first place!  He wants us to give, share and enjoy!

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Here is today’s Calendar Piece (I’m finally getting handy with Instagram and Pinterest!  Click on the image below for more information):

December 7th | Father of Many Nations

Please read these easy-to-follow Bible verses first.

Bible Background: In Abram’s day, those who wanted to make a covenant would kill an animal and cut it into pieces. The pieces were placed into two columns with a gap or aisle between them. All the people making the covenant would walk down the aisle as if to say, “I obligate myself to this covenant. May I become like these dead animal parts if I break it!”  (Arthur, Kay.  Our Covenant God: Living in the Security of His Unfailing Love.  Random House Digital, Inc., May 27, 2009).  Even in our modern culture we have something similar: weddings! Traditionally, weddings are conducted with a center aisle through which the wedding party walks: the guests (like the sacrificed animal parts) are actually witnesses to the covenant of marriage made between the groom and bride.  As witnesses, guests help to reinforce, encourage, and protect the seriousness of the wedding vows.

Bible Study Question: How is Jesus related to Abraham; how are believers in Jesus related to Abraham?

Today’s Main Idea: God selected Abram (later: Abraham) from all the people of the Earth to follow Him.  He made a covenant that Abraham would be a blessing to the whole world and the father of many nations and countless descendants. When God made the covenant with Abraham, He passed between the pieces of the sacrifice, but Abraham didn’t. God was saying that He alone is responsible to make the results of the covenant happen. All Abram had to do was to have faith in God. For Abram, that meant behaving as if God’s promise was a sure thing (more on that tomorrow): this belief impacted his attitude and his actions.

Ultimately, Jesus is the Blessing that Abram believed in because it is through Christ that Gentiles (many nations) and Jews (one nation) are restored by faith to God.  Therefore, Abraham is the spiritual father of everyone who has faith in God through Jesus, Abraham’s descendant: our faith connects us Abraham’s faith so we are spiritually related. It is because of our faith in Jesus that we can be blessed like Abraham: we are blessed with God’s righteousness.

Application: Faith is not simply thinking something is “true” or good: Faith is being so convinced about something that it changes our behavior. We can’t have faith without actions. Faith is obedience: internal obedience through total acceptance of and surrender to God’s plan; external obedience through doing whatever our part of His plan entails while depending on His resources.  This Christmas, let’s not just say that we believe in Jesus as though He were a good idea or beneficial concept, let’s be obedient to Him as a real Person; let’s surrender to His truth in our hearts and carry out His wishes as we rely on His help.  If God Himself really came to our level, into our plane of existence as one of us that first Christmas, how should we respond? In total faith that God loves us and desires us to be in right-standing with Him!  Our actions reveal more than our words and thoughts ever will; what do our Christmas activities this year reveal about what we truly believe?

Prayer: Father God, thank You for sending Jesus to bless the whole world. Help me to have true faith as Abraham did: let the true importance of Christmas change my attitude and actions. Please bless me with Your righteousness as I put true faith in Your plan for me. In Jesus’ Name; Amen

Family Activity: The Faith Family Tree. Draw a tree on construction paper. On a separate piece of paper, draw 12 ovals. Inside the ovals, draw some of the people mentioned in Hebrews chapter 11. Then draw Jesus, and you. Cut out all the ovals and stick them to the tree. This is YOUR family tree: all these people are related to you because of your faith in Jesus. Doesn’t it feel great to be related to so many awesome people?

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