The writers of Encouraging.com are celebrating their fifteen year landmark by making their 365 daily devotional book, God Moments, available as a free digital download! A total of thirty-six GABC writers have faithfully captured “moments of God’s presence” in their lives to encourage your own spiritual journey. You can find God Moments on amazon.com, iTunes, and BarnesandNoble.com.

Peace

Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end.

Isaiah 9:7


“Ah gots peas like a riber in my sooooooooooooo”. My toddler-daughter sang it loud and long throughout the Christmas season. I’d never really thought of “I’ve Got Peace Like A River” as a Christmas carol, but that didn’t matter to my girl. I asked her what peace felt like. She said, “sssshhhhhh quiet, f’ever”.

We celebrate Christ as the Prince of Peace each Christmas season. We send cards that say “Peace on earth, good will to men”. We sing “Let there be Peace on Earth…and let it begin with me”. What is it that we want? What does this peace feel like? How can we get it?

In Judges 6, Gideon had an encounter with God, who proclaimed to him “Peace!” In response, Gideon built an altar and called it “The Lord is Peace”. From this we learn that God is peace. Apart from him, peace does not exist. Not only is he peace, but he blesses his people with peace (Psalm 29:11). Isaiah explains that we can have perfect peace when we set our minds on him and trust him (Isaiah 26:3). It is God who establishes peace (Isaiah 26:3) and the fruit, or result, of righteousness is peace (Isaiah 32:17).

As a woman, I find my peace most often rattled by my own fears. Perhaps that is why again and again Scripture, the call to peace is followed by the command, “Do not fear”. Jesus said in John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubles and do not be afraid.” Knowing that God is Peace, that Christ is the Prince of Peace is one thing, but walking in that trust is another. It requires intentionality, focus and purpose.

One of my favorite ‘do it!’ verses is Romans 8:6: The mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace. This is where I want to live...in the “ssssshhhhhh quiet, f’ever”.

Jill Hardin

A Hard Christmas

I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
Philippians 4:13


It was a Christmas to remember, all right. It is my first thought when Christmas is mentioned. My memories are so near that it seems like only yesterday. My husband’s precious mother died just before Christmas ten years ago after a four-month struggle with pancreatic cancer. It was a brutal journey for all of us. We lived at the hospice facility for five weeks, sleeping on a mattress on the floor, not wanting to surrender one lucid moment with this treasured woman. Our children were so young: a toddler and a preschooler, and our efforts to “drum up” Christmas in the midst of our grief and her suffering were exhausting.

But God showed up with gifts! Most precious to me was the gift of his strength, spoken to me through the prophet Isaiah: I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand….For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you (Isaiah 41:10, 13).

I needed help. I needed strength. I needed Someone to hold my hand. I held on to these verses through funeral planning and family gatherings. I relied on his promise to help me know how to comfort my grieving husband. I pleaded for his strength to accomplish the necessary errands of the season. I asked for him to extend these same graces to my children….to help them, to hold them, to strengthen them as life seemed chaotic and unfamiliar.

And, I received the gift of his faithfulness...to do what he promised. It was not until months after the funeral that I could see God’s sustaining hand throughout our journey. The perspective of time showed me his hand at work on my behalf.

Yes, it was a hard Christmas! But coupled with the painful memories are the wonder of God’s gifts to me in that season.

The Lord is the strength of my life – of whom shall I be afraid? (Psalm 27:1).

Jill Hardin

Joy

My heart leaps for joy, and I will give thanks to him in song.
Psalm 28:7


The joy of Christmas. I’m just not feeling it! Instead, I feel the weight of programs, projects and plans; of school, schedules and sickness; of my own aches, anxieties and angst. Where is that joy unspeakable and full of glory (1 Peter 1:8, KJV)?

Joy is one of the priceless gifts of God, given to the believer who sets his/her mind on Christ. It is a choice; a choosing of right thoughts; setting the mind on the truth of who God is and what He has done for us. It is often coupled with a thankful heart.

Joylessness is rooted in self-absorption. When I cannot see beyond myself, my own needs and problems, I cannot experience the gift of joy that God gives me. Since joy is often connected to gratitude, it does require an element of humility, even neediness…I realize my need for a Savior, and the reality of his sacrifice for me produces a joyful heart.

There is an artificial joy, a shallow kind, that celebrates the child-like wonder, the twinkling lights, and festive atmosphere of the season….but fizzles as the holidays fade. This is not real joy. This is not the joy of Jesus.

The joy of Jesus is deep, eternal, and never changing. It is not based on circumstances, but on the steadfastness of his love for us. Psalm 103:17 says, The steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting. Now THAT is something to be joyful about. Noting that joy is one of the fruits of the Spirit mentioned in Galatians 5:22, we know that it is a virtue that can be grown, developed and cherished.

I purpose this season to be joyful. I will set my mind and my heart, with intention, on the gracious, extravagant gifts that God gives to me, his child. His joy will be my strength (Nehemiah 8:10). I will be like David who sang, you will fill me with joy in your presence (Psalm 16:11).

Jill Hardin

God, the Gift-Giver

Every good and perfect gift is from above…
James 1:17


As I studied my Christmas shopping list this morning, I remembered a statement I’ve heard my pastor, David Dykes, say many, many times: “You are never more like God than when you give.” Our God is a giver. In fact, the Word says that every good and perfect gift is from him.

I took some time this morning to look at what gifts the Bible says that God gives us. The first gift of God mentioned in Scripture was voiced by Leah, wife of Jacob, when she birthed her first son: “God has presented me with a precious gift (Gen 30:20). Ecclesiastes 3:13 says, That everyone may eat and drink and find satisfaction in all his toil – this is the gift of God. In 5:19 we read, When God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work – this is a gift of God.

Jesus, speaking to the Samaritan woman at the well said, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water” (John 4:10). Jesus is a gift from God! In Acts 1:4, Jesus tells the disciples to wait for the gift his Father promised, referring to the Holy Spirit.

Paul writes in Romans 6:23, the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord. Similarly, Paul says, For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8).

I am awe-struck at God’s extravagance with me. He gives me precious things. He gives me what I need to live. He satisfies me. He gives me his own son, Jesus! He gives me what I need most…what I cannot give myself – eternal life.

Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift! (2 Corinthians 9:15).

Jill Hardin

Be Still and Know

Be still and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth. The Lord Almighty is with us.
Psalm 46:10-11


Be still: But Lord, You know how many things I have to do this time of year. You actually want me to set aside time every morning to kneel before You and listen to You through Your Word? How will everything get done?

Be still: Are you saying that You want more than just my mornings? You want me to go through my day with stillness in my soul and an awareness of You? How can I do that amidst the noise and distractions?

Be still and know that I am God: OK, Lord, I understand. The only way I can know You more intimately is by purposefully being still before You. Keep me determined to be still inwardly throughout my day so I catch glimpses of Your character and ways.

I will be exalted: The more I come to know You, the more I long to exalt You. Be exalted in and through me. May Your praise be ever on my lips. May I declare Your greatness to the next generation.

Then I will know and others will know…

The Lord Almighty is with us: What an awe-inspiring thought—God with us! Thank You, Jesus, that You loved us enough to dwell among us. You, who in very nature are God, chose to set aside the privileges of deity. You took on the nature of a servant and became human. You humbled Yourself, lived obediently and died obediently on a cross. Therefore God has exalted You to the highest place and has given You the name above every name. Every knee will bow; every tongue will confess that You, Jesus, are Lord—all to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2)  

Lord, continue to teach me that being still before You leads to knowing You. Knowing You leads to exalting You, which leads to an awareness that You are with us!

Jan Burkhart