I Pledge Allegiance to the Lamb
by Ray Boltz
I Pledge Allegiance to the Lamb
by Ray Boltz
“Mary carried her Bible everywhere she went. Tucked inside her purse or coat pocket, it never left her side. Like a cherished keepsake and without fail, every chance she got throughout the day, the words from its worn pages brought her inspiration, comfort, instruction and hope. One day someone asked her, ‘why’ … To the stranger’s question she replied, without even having to contemplate what she would say, ‘These are my letters from home.'”
The Bible is like a treasure box filled with letters from distant relatives whose stories guide and shape our lives. Like pilgrims who have traveled to a promised, far away land, they journeyed to new horizons and braved the challenges of this life, while sharing their experiences and faith with you and me. From cover to cover, the Bible is God’s amazing gift to us- a collection of love letters from our Father Creator and the story of His Son, Jesus Christ- interwoven within a tapestry of personal accounts which reveal God’s character- His sovereignty, wisdom and power, along with His deep and endearing love, grace, and mercy.
As we read our letters, they instruct and inspire us, reminding us to keep seeking, keep following, keep trusting, keep praying, keep loving, keep marching, and to keep believing that we will one day reach the Promised Land- our heavenly home- where we will, at last, be with our beloved Father and with our precious LORD and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Have you taken the opportunity lately to open the Bible and read God’s letters, written with love to you- His dear child? If you haven’t, I encourage you to do so. If you find the King James Bible difficult to read, find a translation like the NIV or the Holman Christian Bible.
Open to the book of John. It is the fourth book in the New Testament. John is a wonderful place to start because the author tells the story of Jesus in such a beautiful way. From His existence with God the Father at the time of creation, to His birth as a human child and His miracles and teachings, to His heart-felt prayer for you and me in the Garden of Gethsemane, and to His cruel crucifixion- every line reveals more of God’s character and endearing love for us, His children. But the story doesn’t end in sorrow, for Jesus rose from the grave, conquering death for all eternity, and making a way for you and me to live with Him forever in peace and harmony in our heavenly home! That’s right. this earthly life isn’t all there is!
God loves you more than you could ever comprehend. And He left you a treasured keepsake, filled with His words of love and guidance. They are for you- His beloved Son or Daughter. He knows you and His desire is that you know and love Him. He longs for the day when you run into His arms and call Him “Father”. He is waiting for you to read the letters He sent and to know His love for you. He has a plan for your life, just as He did for Mary. She found direction in the letters He sent her and so can you!
If you want to know God’s love and His plan for you, then take time- right now. Open the Bible and read your Letters from Home.
What do you give a King for His birthday? A King who truly does have everything? Every year just before Christmas, I ask the King what He would like to receive from me. The answer varies widely, but there are two things in common: The gift is always sacrificial in nature, something I would not do unless He requested it. And it is something I could not do except God enables me.
So what will you give the King of Kings this Christmas? He offers a gift suggestion in John 13:34: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
What do you give a King for His birthday? Think about it! This year, would you celebrate Christmas by giving the King something He really wants … love each another.
“Teach the Children”
Late one Christmas Eve, I sank back, tired but content, into my easy chair. The kids were in bed, the gifts were wrapped, the milk and cookies waited by the fireplace for Santa. As I sat back admiring the tree with its decorations, I couldn’t help feeling that something important was missing. It wasn’t long before the tiny twinkling tree lights lulled me to sleep.
I don’t know how long I slept, but all of a sudden I knew that I wasn’t alone. I opened my eyes, and you can imagine my surprise when I saw Santa Claus himself standing next to my Christmas tree. He was dressed all in fur from his head to his foot just as the poem described him, but he was not the “jolly old elf” of Christmas legend. The man who stood before me looked sad and disappointed, and there were tears in his eyes.
“Santa, what’s wrong?” I asked, “Why are you crying?”
“It’s the children,” Santa replied sadly.
“But Santa, the children love you,” I said.
“Oh, I know they love me, and they love the gifts I bring them,” Santa said, “but the children of today seem to have somehow missed out on the true spirit of Christmas. It’s not their fault. It’s just that the adults, many of them not having been taught themselves, have forgotten to teach the children.”
“Teach them what?” I asked.
Santa’s kind old face became soft, more gentle. His eyes began to shine with something more than tears. He spoke softly. “Teach the children the true meaning of Christmas. Teach them that the part of Christmas we can see, hear, and touch is much more than meets the eye. Teach them the symbolism behind the customs and traditions of Christmas which we now observe. Teach them what it is they truly represent.”
Santa reached into his bag and pulled out a tiny Christmas tree and set it on my mantle. “Teach them about the Christmas tree. Green is the second color of Christmas. The stately evergreen, with its unchanging color, represents the hope of eternal life in Jesus. Its needles point heavenward as a reminder that mankind’s thoughts should turn heavenward as well.”
Santa reached into his bag again and pulled out a shiny star and placed it at the top of the small tree. “The star was the heavenly sign of promise. God promised a Savior for the world and the star was the sign of the fulfillment of that promise on the night that Jesus Christ was born. Teach the children that God always fulfills His promises, and that wise men still seek Him.”
“Red,” said Santa, “is the first color of Christmas.” He pulled forth a red ornament for the tiny tree. “Red is deep, intense, vivid. It is the color of the life-giving blood that flows through our veins. It is the symbol of God’s greatest gift. Teach the children that Christ gave His life and shed His blood for them that they might have eternal life. When they see the color red, it should remind them of that most wonderful Gift.”
Santa found a silver bell in his pack and placed it on the tree. “Just as lost sheep are guided to safety by the sound of the bell, it continues to ring today for all to be guided to the fold. Teach the children to follow the true Shepherd, who gave His life for the sheep.”
Santa placed a candle on the mantle and lit it. The soft glow from its one tiny flame brightened the room. “The glow of the candle represents how people can show their thanks for the gift of God’s Son that Christmas Eve long ago. Teach the children to follow in Christ’s foot steps… to go about doing good. Teach them to let their light so shine before people that all may see it and glorify God. This is what is symbolized when the twinkling lights shine on the tree like hundreds of bright, shining candles, each of them representing one of God’s precious children, their light shining for all to see.”
Again Santa reached into his bag and this time he brought forth a tiny red and white striped cane. As he hung it on the tree he spoke softly. “The candy cane is a stick of hard white candy: white to symbolize the virgin birth and sinless nature of Jesus, and hard to symbolize the Solid Rock the foundation of the church, and the firmness of God’s promises. The candy cane is in the form of a ‘J’ to represent the precious name of Jesus, who came to earth. It also represents the Good Shepherd’s crook, which He uses to reach down into the ditches of the world to lift out the fallen lambs who, like all sheep, have gone astray. The original candy cane had three small red stripes, which are the stripes of the scourging Jesus received by which we are healed, and a large red stripe that represents the shed blood of Jesus, so that we can have the promise of eternal life.”
“Teach these things to the children.”
Santa brought out a beautiful wreath made of fresh, fragrant greenery tied with a bright red bow. “The bow reminds us of the bond of perfection, which is love. The wreath embodies all the good things about Christmas for those with eyes to see and hearts to understand. It contains the colors of red and green and the heaven-turned needles of the evergreen. The bow tells the story of good will towards all and its color reminds us of Christ’s sacrifice. Even its very shape is symbolic, representing eternity and the eternal nature of Christ’s love. It is a circle, without beginning and without end. These are the things you must teach the children.”
I asked, “But where does that leave you, Santa?”
The tears gone now from his eyes, a smile broke over Santa’s face. “Why bless you, my dear,” he laughed, “I’m only a symbol myself. I represent the spirit of family fun and the joy of giving and receiving. If the children are taught these other things, there is no danger that I’ll ever be forgotten.”
“I think I’m beginning to understand.”
“That’s why I came,” said Santa. “You’re an adult. If you don’t teach the children these things, then who will?”
– Author Unknown
An uplifting and inspirational message by Joni Eareckson Tada
My beautiful friend, Joni Eareckson Tada, has spoken words into my life that have forever changed me — and countless others around the world. Founder and CEO of Joni and Friends, an organization that accelerates Christian outreach in the disability community, Joni is the author of numerous best-selling books, including Heaven, Joni, Diamonds in the Dust, and her most recent — and beautiful — Joni & Ken: An Untold Love Story.
Joni tells a story on the farm front porch today that just — well, you tell me what it does to your heart…
Ken opened wide the front door so I could wheel out to the van.
For a long moment I sat squarely in the door frame, staring and taking it all in:
the shade tree dappling our brick path, blossoms bobbing on the crepe myrtle, and patches of sunlight on dewy grass.
It was the freshest of mornings. Oh God, I breathed, If only I could feel as fresh.
After more than four decades of quadriplegia, I’m tired.
Please don’t think I’m a veteran or a professional when it comes to living in a wheelchair.
I’m not an expert.
My bones are weary and thin from battling everything from pressure sores and pneumonia — to stage III cancer.
My question these days is never “Why, God?”
It’s most often “How?”
How do I keep on going?
How do I care about others when I’m consumed with my own physical challenges?
How can I be kind and civil when pain wracks me?
How can I find the strength to face this day?
That morning, Ken had the answer.
“Why aren’t you out by the van?” he asked when he came from the kitchen with my lunch bag. Staring at the splendorous morning beyond the door, I answered him with a deep sigh.
“Wait here,” he said, “I know exactly what you need.”
Soon he was back with a yellow post-it note. With a thick Sharpie, he had simply penned on it the letter ‘C.’ I gave him an odd look.
“It stands for Courage,” he said, “The courage of Christ. I can see it in your eyes, Joni, and you can do this. I know you can!”
With that, he pressed the post-it on my shirt, right above my heart.
I glanced at it, then up at him. I can’t explain what happened next, but grace actually entered my heart. His note was a means of grace, like a sacrament through which God creates faith inside us. And it felt so liberating.
A breeze wafted in and my eyes became wet.
“Thank you,” I whispered to Ken and lifted my arm to give him a hug. “Thank you for that.”
He wiped my nose, kissed my cheek, and said softly, “Let’s get this day going.”
I then wheeled out into the morning feeling a fresh wave of strength from my Savior.
Proverbs 18:21 sums it up: “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.”
Ken only said a few words, and probably without giving them much thought.
But those words were brimming with power and life. His was a pronouncement, a declaration of the good he saw in me… or, at least the good he wanted to see. And God gave me His amazing grace to rise to the occasion.
It’s a hard world. Even the best of Christians are feeling the weight of weariness. Little wonder we are to “Encourage one another daily” (Hebrews 3:13).
Think of the people you’ll see today… friends recovering from surgery, neighbors dealing with grief, coworkers coping with pain.
Whether you say it in an email, over the phone, or in person, your words have the capacity to change their countenance and character.
And the best word?
The Word made flesh, Jesus — who always has courageous words of life.