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Friday, December 7, 2018

The Perfect Gift

| 2:00 min read |

Matthew 2:11 “They entered the house where the child and his mother, Mary, were, and they fell down before him and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.”

Gift giving is a wonderful tradition of Christmas. Finding that perfect gift for that special someone involves careful shopping. While the search can be agonizing, how rewarding it is when the gift is opened and you know you hit the mark!

Jesus’ birth was attended with gifts. When the wise men came to see Jesus they presented the Savior with gifts—gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

These gifts were not the result of a spur of the moment shopping spree before they left their homes in the east. No, these men carefully selected the gifts they presented to Jesus. They gave gifts befitting the King of Kings. What was the significance of the items presented to the Lord?

Gold is usually thought of as the most precious metal. It was a sign of royalty and majesty. Frankincense is costly incense, sometimes referred to as the incense of deity. It was associated with priests in their service to God. Myrrh signified human mortality. It was used for preparing bodies for burial.

The wise men carefully shopped for the gifts they offered to the Lord. They were conscientious about the things they gave to Him. Each item prophetically told of His life and ministry—gold for a King, frankincense for a High Priest, and myrrh in prediction of Jesus’ sacrificial death.

As you shop for special items for the special people in your life this Christmas, think about what gift you need to give to the Lord. Don’t let this season go by without giving something meaningful to Him.

PRAYER

Lord, as we shop for gifts for others, we want to consider the gift we need to give to you. Thank you for the example of the wise men who brought to you carefully chosen presents. Help us to be conscious of the gift you most want from us. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Pastor Dale

Christmas Devotional by Pastor Dale O’Shields, Church of the Redeemer

Thursday, December 6, 2018

In The Company of Shepherds

| 1:56 min read |

Luke 2:15-17 “When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, ‘Come on, let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this wonderful thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’ They ran to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. Then the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child.”

No Nativity scene is complete without the presence of shepherds. Every good Christmas pageant has them!

Christ’s birth was first announced to shepherds by an angel. Shepherds received a heavenly invitation to see the newborn Savior of the world and celebrate His birth.

Have you ever wondered why God invited shepherds to such a historical event? Many possible reasons have been proposed.

Perhaps it was because these particular shepherds were taking care of sheep used for Temple sacrifices. They were invited to see the One and Only Lamb of God who would forever take away the sins of the world.

It could be that shepherds were invited because Jesus was the great Heavenly Shepherd. How fitting for men who daily took care of wandering, smelly, unintelligent sheep to come to the manger’s side and see the One who would give His life caring for spiritual sheep.

Shepherds were average, hard-working and common men. They were sometimes despised by others. God sent an angel to let them know that ordinary people were welcome in the presence of His Son.

This Christmas thank God for the lessons we learn from the shepherds. Remember that you too, like the shepherds, are invited into the presence of the Savior.

PRAYER

Lord, thank you for being the Lamb of God that takes away all our sins. Thank you for being the Great Shepherd who so wonderfully cares for us. Thank you that no matter who we are or where we have come from we are welcome in your presence. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Pastor Dale

Christmas Devotional by Pastor Dale O’Shields, Church of the Redeemer

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Sweet Gratitude

| 2:00 min read |

Luke 1:46-49 “Mary responded, ‘Oh, how I praise the Lord. How I rejoice in God my Savior! For he took notice of his lowly servant girl, and now generation after generation will call me blessed. For he, the Mighty One, is holy, and he has done great things for me.’”

In recent years a new term has come in vogue. When something good or exciting happens, it is not uncommon to hear a person speak one simple word that expresses their delight—“Sweet!”

It is impossible for most people to think of Christmas without some thought of sweet things—literally and metaphorically. Sweetness is part of the holiday.

Mary understood the sweetness of Jesus’ miraculous conception and birth. As Mary reflected on the fact that God had chosen her as the vessel through whom Jesus Christ would come into the world, she was so overwhelmed with praise that she wrote a song.

In Mary’s song we find an expression of her gratitude for God’s kindness to her. In bearing the Christ-child, Mary knew that she was blessed. Her response, in modern vernacular, was “Sweet!”

We need the same perspective Mary possessed. If we have put our faith in Jesus Christ, Jesus lives in us. Jesus’ presence in us makes us sweet people. Everywhere we go, we go as a person blessed of God. With Mary we too can exclaim, “Sweet!” When we live this way, others are able to taste the sweetness of the Lord through our lives.

Every time something sweet touches your taste buds this Christmas—the cake, the pie, the chocolate, the peppermints—thank God that Jesus in you is the best sweet of all!

PRAYER

Lord, how sweet it is to know you. With you in us, even the bitter things of life are made sweet. Please renew our awareness of how blessed we are. Please forgive us when we complain about life. Take away the ugly spirit of discontentment and replace it with a spirit of praise. May we live our lives in such a way that through our actions, words and attitudes others can taste of your sweetness. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Pastor Dale

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Joy

| 2:06 min read |

Luke 2:8-11 “That night some shepherds were in the fields outside the village, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terribly frightened, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news of great joy for everyone! The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born tonight in Bethlehem, the city of David!”

While joy is usually associated with births, there was something about the birth of Jesus Christ that created a special joy. This joy was available, not just for a few family members and friends, but for the whole world, for time immemorial.

One of the favorite songs of the Christmas season reflects the angel’s birth announcement to the shepherds, “Joy to the world the Lord is come. Let earth receive her King.” Why did the angel of the Lord proclaim such joy at the Jesus’ birth?

The coming of Jesus makes available to us a relationship with the Source of joy. In a dark world, percolating with bad news and threatening potential; in the dark moments of life, when facing hard times and tough trials, we need something to sustain us. We need genuine joy to get us through—not superficial substitutes, but a real, deep, abiding, Holy Spirit-inspired sense that everything is going to be okay.

Christmas is about receiving more than a temporary fix of happiness; it is about a relationship with the King of Joy-Jesus Christ. It is about having and living in a supernatural joy that supersedes our circumstances and strengthens us; spirit, soul and body.

During this Christmas season, welcome the King of Joy into your heart again. Let the sunlight of His joy drive your dark clouds away.

PRAYER

Lord, just as the angel proclaimed the great joy of your birth, let us experience the joy of your coming. Forgive us for allowing the darkness of the world and trials of life to cloud the joy found in you. Restore to us the joy of our salvation this Christmas, and help us share this joy with others. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Pastor Dale

Christmas Devotional by Pastor Dale O’Shields, Church of the Redeemer

Monday, December 3, 2018

Mary

| 2:00 min read |

Luke 1:38 “Mary responded, ‘I am the Lord’s servant, and I am willing to accept whatever he wants. May everything you have said come true.’ And then the angel left.”

These words of Mary follow a startling message from the angel Gabriel to her. The angel told Mary that she was to be the mother of the Christ-child. Mary inquired as to how this would happen since she was a virgin. Gabriel explained that the Holy Spirit would come upon her in a unique way. He promised her that God’s power would make this miracle come to pass. He encouraged her not to fear God’s plan.

Mary could have responded many different ways to the angel’s message, but she responded the right way. When God called on Mary for this assignment, she willingly and enthusiastically said yes. Risking embarrassment, misunderstanding, and ridicule; even chancing the rejection of her fiancé, Joseph, she said yes to God. She became an available and appreciative vessel. She was willing to change her plans to fit God’s plans.

Mary’s example of willingly and joyously accepting God’s call should inspire us to do the same. Just as Mary physically carried the Christ-child, risking all the potential persecution this could involve, so we should willingly and joyously carry and present Jesus to the people we interact with everyday. We must be ready to risk misunderstanding, ridicule, and rejection for Christ’s sake. Let this Christmas be a time when we learn a lesson from Mary’s life. May we always be available and appreciative servants of the Lord.

PRAYER

Lord, how often we have failed to willingly and joyously bear your name before others. At times we have retreated in the face of our fears—fear of misunderstanding, ridicule, and rejection. Please forgive us. Help us to be like Mary. During this Christmas season bring boldness of faith to us. Help us not to shrink from the privilege of sharing you with others. Let us always be willing to change our plans to fit your plans. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Pastor Dale

Christmas Devotional by Pastor Dale O’Shields, Church of the Redeemer

Friday, November 30, 2018

Preparation

| 1:39 min read |

Matthew 3:1-2 “In those days John the Baptist began preaching in the Judean wilderness. His message was, ‘Turn from your sins and turn to God, because the Kingdom of Heaven is near.’”

If you met him once, you would never forget him. His appearance was a bit unusual, and his message straightforward. He was a no-nonsense kind of guy—a man on a mission. His name? John the Baptist.

John had a unique calling from God. He was given the task of preparing Israel for the coming ministry of Jesus Christ. He confronted spiritual hypocrisy and hardness, instructing people to confess their sins and return to God. He prepared the way for the Lord.

As we think of Christmas, we can’t help but think of preparations. Getting ready for the holidays usually involves putting up decorations, purchasing gifts, making meal plans, scheduling travel—all kinds of preparations. Unfortunately, in the midst of the hustle and bustle of such natural preparations, we sometimes forget about the most important preparation. We fail to spiritually prepare.

Let this Christmas season be a time of preparing the way for the Lord in your life. Set aside some time to take a spiritual inventory, to account for your sins and to return with a renewed passion to Jesus Christ. Get ready for the good things God has planned for your future.

PRAYER

Lord, in the midst of all the busyness of our holiday preparations, we ask that you help us find moments of quietness and reflection. Help us to take the time to prepare our hearts before you. Show us how we need to get ready for the good things you have planned for our future. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Pastor Dale

Christmas Devotional by Pastor Dale O’Shields, Church of the Redeemer

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Dreams

| 2:03 min read |

Matthew 1:18-21 “Now this is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant by the Holy Spirit. Joseph, her fiancé, being a just man, decided to break the engagement quietly, so as not to disgrace her publicly. As he considered this, he fell asleep, and an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. ‘Joseph, son of David,’ the angel said, ‘do not be afraid to go ahead with your marriage to Mary. For the child within her has been conceived by the Holy Spirit. And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’”

Have you ever had a dream that changed your life? Dreams have transformational power. They can cause us to reevaluate our life direction.

This was the case with a young man named Joseph. He had some great plans for his life. He planned to marry a beautiful young lady named Mary. But his plans were disturbed by an unexpected turn of events.

When he discovered that Mary was expecting a child, he decided to gracefully break the engagement. Joseph must have been in deep emotional pain as he contemplated his options. He agonized over this decision to end the relationship with the woman he loved.

God did something special for Joseph. He gave Joseph a dream. This dream helped Joseph understand that Mary’s pregnancy was not a human-event, but a God-event. It helped Joseph discover God’s plan for his life.

Christmas is about dreams. Because Jesus Christ came, we can receive and understand God’s dreams for our lives. In relationship with Christ, God plants and nurtures dreams in us. His dreams show us His will, comfort us when we are unsettled, and confirm our destiny when we are confused.

Let God know how grateful you are for the dreams He has for your life. Let this Christmas be a time for renewing and reviewing God’s dreams for your life.

PRAYER

Lord, how wonderful it is to know that you have dreams in mind for us. You have saved us for a purpose. Help us this Christmas to discover the destiny you have designed for us, and give us the grace to pursue and fulfill it. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Pastor Dale

Christmas Devotional by Pastor Dale O’Shields, Church of the Redeemer

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

New Beginnings

| 1:49 min read |

Isaiah 43:19 “For I am about to do a brand-new thing. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness for my people to come home. I will create rivers for them in the desert!”

If you have ever made a terrible mistake, done something foolish in a relationship or blown a great opportunity, you can appreciate the possibility of a new beginning. The chance for a fresh start always lifts the distressed and depressed soul. It brings hope to a hurting, shame-filled heart.

Jesus’ birth is about a new beginning. When Christ came into the world He ushered in a whole new era—the age of grace. Jesus put a face on God, and suddenly people could see and experience God’s love in a brand new way. In the birth of Jesus Christ, God came close, He came near to us. We were given a new opportunity to know Him. And as we receive Jesus Christ into our hearts by faith, He does something new in us. He transforms us from the inside out!

As we continue to grow in our relationship with Jesus Christ, He continues to surprise us with the grace of fresh starts and new things. He never stops making new ways for us. He continually opens new doors for us. He keeps on giving new gifts to us. He consistently provides new relationships for us. He actively prepares a new future for us.

Take time to praise the Lord for Christmas. Because Jesus came we have the joy of fresh starts and new beginnings. Aren’t you thankful for this?

PRAYER

Lord, how amazing is your grace. Over and over you pick us up, clean us up, and forgive us of our sins—you give us fresh starts. You do so many new things in our lives. How could we ever express our gratitude to you for all the new beginnings you have provided us? We appreciate all the new things you do in our lives. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Pastor Dale

Christmas Devotional by Pastor Dale O’Shields, Church of the Redeemer

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Promises

| 2:04 min read |

Isaiah 7:14 “… The Lord himself will choose the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanue—‘God is with us.’”

These words were spoken through the prophet Isaiah approximately 700 years before Jesus Christ was born. It is one of many prophetic promises that were fulfilled on that first Christmas Day.

Promises are only as good as the person who gives them. Promises are appreciated when they are backed by a person’s integrity and power. We can count on promises only when the person making them has the resources to fulfill them and the reliability of character that assures us that they will stand behind their word.

When integrity and power undergird a person’s pledge, we have something secure to hold on to. Even before the promise comes to pass, we know that it is as good as done.

Christmas is all about God fulfilling His promises to people. When Jesus was born, God did what He had promised to do – send His Son into the world to show us His love and salvation. Because God fulfilled His promise in sending Jesus the first time, we can be sure that He will fulfill His promise that one day, Jesus will come again.

Christmas also reminds us that all of God’s promises are good and can be counted on. He is always faithful to His Word. God’s promises are backed by His integrity and power. He never lets His Word fail.

Pause and praise God for fulfilling His promise in sending Jesus Christ to earth as our Savior. Express your faith in God’s promise that Jesus is coming back again. Give Him thanks for all the good promises found in His Word that carry you through each day and every circumstance in your life.

PRAYER

Lord, how grateful we are that you fulfilled the many promises spoken through your prophets about the birth and ministry of your Son, Jesus Christ. Thank you for the integrity and power that backs every promise you make. Help us to continue to rest in, and receive the benefits of, the many wonderful promises in your Word. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Pastor Dale

Christmas Devotional by Pastor Dale O’Shields, Church of the Redeemer

Monday, November 26, 2018

Advent

| 1:33 min read |

Matthew 2:6 “O Bethlehem of Judah, you are not just a lowly village in Judah, for a ruler will come from you who will be the shepherd for my people Israel.”

The word “advent” refers to the coming or arrival of someone or something. It is traditionally and liturgically connected with Christmas. Christmas is about an arrival—the most significant arrival in history. It is about the Advent—the coming of Jesus Christ.

In Matthew 2:6 we see that the Advent of Jesus is associated with Him ruling and shepherding people. He has come to rule our lives and to shepherd our souls. He is the true Shepherd-King.

When we invite Jesus Christ into our hearts, He establishes His rule over us. He helps us understand what is good for us and what is destructive to us. He provides us with principles to live by and boundaries to live within. His rule over us is one of love. He guides us tenderly, as a good shepherd oversees his sheep.

Take a moment to give praise and thanks to the Lord for coming as your Ruler and Shepherd. Determine to give Him unrestricted reign over your mind, will and emotions. Choose to trust and follow Him wholeheartedly as your Heavenly Shepherd. Thank Him for His Advent in your life!

Prayer

Lord, how grateful we are that you have come to rule over us. Left to our own rule, we always make a mess of life. Thank you for bringing guidance, truth and structure to us. Thank you that you rule as a loving Shepherd, always looking after our needs and providing for our best. Jesus, thank you for coming! In your name, Amen.

Pastor Dale

Christmas Devotional by Pastor Dale O’Shields, Church of the Redeemer

Friday, November 23, 2018

The Path To Peace – Part 5

| 1:18 min read |

How are your relationships going? It’s a big question and an important one. The quality of our relationships directly affects the quality of our lives. Your relationships can greatly enrich your life or create some of the greatest pain in life.

Unfortunately, many times our relationships are draining life from us. We find ourselves in conflicts with others, dealing with rejection from people and betrayals from folks we thought were our friends. Instead of peaceful experiences with others, we find ourselves living in an emotional and relational war zone.

While we cannot always control what other people do to us, or around us, we do control our response to them. God gives us some instructions about how to handle the painful things people do. Look at God’s Word that addresses this in Romans 12:18, 19 (TPT) “Never hold a grudge or try to get even, but plan your life around the noblest way to benefit others. Do your best to live as everybody’s friend.”

When people hurt or disappointment you, don’t live in the pain. Choose to forgive. Choose to move on. Choose to keep your heart free from the anger and bitterness that will poison and destroy you, and people around you. “Do your best to live as everybody’s friend.” It’s not always easy, but it preserves peace in your heart!

Pastor Dale

Thursday, November 22, 2018

The Path To Peace – Part 4

| 1:41 min read |

The brain is an amazing organ of the body. Physiologically, it’s the central operating system of your life. It regulates the functioning of all living systems.

Another interesting aspect of your brain is that it’s programmable. Psychologists refer to this as the elasticity of the brain. Through the things you see, hear, experience, read and contemplate, your brain forms thought pathways that create certain actions, reactions, and emotions. This is the work of your mind. We might say that your brain is your physical hardware for thinking, and your mind is the software that has been programmed there—it’s how and what you think.

Unfortunately, our minds can be programmed with untrue, painful, worrisome and dysfunctional thinking. This is sometimes referred to as “stinking thinking!” This kind of thinking steals our peace.

To experience consistent peace, we need to work on our thinking. We need to police our minds and arrest the thoughts that are robbing peace from us, replacing stinking thinking with holy, healthy, and wholesome thoughts.

Take a look at what Paul the apostle said about this in Philippians 4:8, 9 (TLB) “… Fix your thoughts on what is true and good and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely, and dwell on the fine, good things in others. Think about all you can praise God for and be glad about. Keep putting into practice all you learned from me and saw me doing, and the God of peace will be with you.”

What thoughts in your mind need to be arrested and incarcerated, permanently eradicated? You’re in control of your thinking. Put the right filters on your mind and your heart will be filled with God’s peace!

Pastor Dale

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

The Path To Peace – Part 3

| 1:19 min read |

How much time have you wasted worrying? It’s sad to think of all the minutes, hours and days that have been stolen from us by worry. It would seem that we’d learn our lesson that worry doesn’t work. No problem has ever been solved by it.

Jesus spoke about worry. Matthew 6:25 (NIV) “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life …” Strong, straightforward words from Jesus—“Do not worry!”

Paul, a key leader of the early church talked about this issue too. Look at what he wrote in Philippians 4:6, 7 (TLB) “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs, and don’t forget to thank him for his answers. If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will keep your thoughts and your hearts quiet and at rest as you trust in Christ Jesus.”

The psalm writer David wrote about how to live a worry-free life in Psalm 55:22 (TPT) “… Leave all your cares and anxieties at the feet of the Lord, and measureless grace will strengthen you.”

God designed you to function best when you’re at peace on the inside. To have this kind of peace we must give God our worries and surrender the control of our lives to Him. We must trust that God’s got us! He cares for you, and He’ll take care of you! Peace!

Pastor Dale

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

The Path To Peace – Part 2

| 1:14 min read |

Some people have a negative view of God. They perceive Him as a “cosmic killjoy”—a kind of grumpy old man in heaven, looking for ways to make us guilty, and our lives miserable.

This couldn’t be further from the truth. God is not interested in killing your joy, He’s all about helping you find and live in it. He’s all about showing you a path to peace that goes beyond anything good you’ve ever imagined. He’s committed to being with you in the toughest and roughest of times, strengthening, comforting and sustaining you. He’s good—totally good—always good—good good!

One of the ways God guides us into His peace is through the principles and commands of His Word. God’s instructions about life are designed to help us discover the best way to live life. His Word gives us wisdom that leads to a life of peace.

Take a look at what the psalm writer wrote about this in Psalm 119:165 (TPT) “There is such a great peace and well-being that comes to the lovers of your word, and they will never be offended.”

Think about it. Loving and living by God’s Word doesn’t restrict our life and joy, it expands and enlarges it. The path to peace is found in the pages of God’s Word, knowing what He says, and living by what He says!

Pastor Dale

Monday, November 19, 2018

The Path To Peace – Part 1

| 1:27 min read |

Environments are important. They’re the difference between productivity and waste, joy and sadness, inspiration and despair.

We live our best lives in an environment of peace. When peace rules, better work is done, more happiness is found, and every aspect of health improves. God designed you to function at your peak in an atmosphere of peace.

The big question is, how do we find peace, and how do we keep peace in our hearts, our homes and in the many relationships of life?

The first step on the path to peace is critical. It can’t be skipped or replaced. It’s essential. Peace is the result of a right and good relationship with God. It comes when we know that we are loved by Him, forgiven by Him and accepted into His family through faith in His Son, Jesus, Christ.

Paul the apostle wrote about this in Romans 5:1, 2 (TPT) “Our faith in Jesus transfers God’s righteousness to us and he now declares us flawless in his eyes. This means that we can now enjoy true and lasting peace with God, all because of what our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One, has done for us. Our faith guarantees us permanent access into this marvelous kindness that has given us a perfect relationship with God. What incredible joy bursts forth within us as we keep on celebrating our hope of experiencing God’s glory!”

Do you have this kind of peace—real peace with God? When it’s in you, it can flow through you to the people and environments around you!

Pastor Dale

Friday, November 16, 2018

Slippery Slopes

| 1:45 min read |

You’re likely familiar with the term “slippery slope.” Metaphorically it describes “a course of action that seems to lead inevitably from one action or result to another with unintended consequences.” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary).

This phrase is almost always used to describe a negative sequence of events that started ignorantly or innocuously, and yet ended tragically.

There is no slippery slope story more tragic than the story of Judas Iscariot. Jesus invited Judas to be one of his12 closest disciples—and appointed him as one of the first 12 apostles during His earthly ministry. It’s safe to assume that Judas had some level of love for Jesus, at least initially. He obviously made a commitment to become one of Jesus’ followers.

But little by little, over time, unresolved spiritual issues surfaced in Judas’ life. His greed, rebellion, and his opinionated nature are revealed in various situations. Without realizing it, Judas was on a slippery slope that climaxed the night before Jesus was crucified.

Look at how John described the moment in John 13:2 (NIV) “The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus.” We all know the rest of the story, and the tragic end of Judas’ life.

The sad part of the story is that Judas’ bad ending was the result of small bad decisions along the way that opened him to the influence of evil. His journey down the slippery slope came to a very ugly crash. His little spiritual compromises caused him a big spiritual problem.

Are you on a slippery slope? Are you making small spiritual compromises, thinking they really don’t matter? Hop off the slope and get back on solid spiritual ground!

Pastor Dale