December 2021 Inspire Newsletter

Merry December! It’s that time where we celebrate the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ. Can there be a more hopeful month? Jesus is the Savior of the world! Jesus is the hope of the world! Jesus is the light of the world! This month’s symbols of hope are the beautiful Christmas lights and candles that decorate so many of our homes.

The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it. John 1:4-5

In this month’s newsletter is a great Christmas devotional, candle craft ideas to make to decorate your home or make as gifts for someone else, and Christmas trivia questions.

Need previous issues of the INSPIRE Newsletter?  They can be found at the following links: November 2021, October 2021September 2021August 2021July 2021June 2021May 2021, April 2021March 2021February 2021, January 2021 December 2020November 2020October 2020September 2020August 2020July 2020June 2020May 2020April 2020March 2020February 2020January 2020December 2019November 2019October 2019October 2018-September 2019

December 2021 Craft: Wise Men Seashell Ornament

Submitted by the Intermountain Division

This craft is incredibly versatile in that it can be adapted for any age and as simple or complex as you would like it to be and adapted to fit any budget.

Some variations include Cardstock with sticker shapes for the Wise Men, Felt and felt pieces, instead of shell for older groups use a piece of stained wood.

Supplies Needed:

  • Half of a large, scalloped seashell (purchase on Amazon or from a local hobby store)
  • Decorative small seashells (purchase on Amazon or from a local hobby story)
  • Hot glue gun with glue sticks
  • 2-inch-think Twine to hang ornament; cut into 5-inch lengths.
  • Strips of fabric or ribbon
  • Materials for floor such as sand, twine, branches, etc.
  • Foam or bead star

Directions:

Step 1: Wipe out large seashell with water and dry thoroughly.

Step 2: Select and sort into groups for Wise Men which small shells you would like to use.

Step 3: Glue down flooring. This can be glitter glue, sand, yarn, etc. I dried corn husks.

Step 4: Glue down Wise Men. Make sure to loop ribbon, fabric etc. around the body before gluing the head and crown. This can be any color or type that you want.

Step 5: Glue down presents. These can be small boxes like I used, square pieces of other material, etc.

Step 6: Glue star to the top of the shell.

Step 7: Wrap twine three times around to create a stronger loop. Put a dab of glue on the side that is being glued to the- shell to hold the pieces together.

Step 8: Glue twine to the back of the shell. To hide the glue on the back of the ornament, choose another shell to place over the area where the twin is affixed.

Allow craft to dry flat for at least 24 hours.

Download printable directions of this craft.

Note: Check out this month’s devotional, A Gift of Significance and the Wise Men Seashell Ornament craft that coordinates with this Bible study.

She Leads…By Getting Out of Your Head and Leading from the Heart of God

By Lt. Felecia Pederson
Billings, MT Corps – Intermountain Division

After the Wise Men had listened to the king, they went on their way. The star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them. It finally stopped over the place where the child was.  When they saw the star, they were filled with joy. The Wise Men went to the house. There they saw the child with his mother Mary. They bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures. They gave him gold, frankincense and myrrh. But God warned them in a dream not to go back to Herod. So they returned to their country on a different road.” Matthew 2:9-12 (NIV)

“I can’t do this!” has been said under my breath more times than I can count. On some occasions it has been accompanied with tears of frustration, some anxiety and even a little resistance. One of these times, while in a women’s ministries meeting, I excused myself and went for a quick walk around the church to calm my anxiety. I was feeling helpless, frustrated, and unable to do all that I felt was required of me. Has anyone else experienced feeling trapped in their own anxiousness or feel consumed with that overwhelming feeling of inadequacy?

Now, let me just clarify, the women did not do anything to cause this reaction. So then, why did I feel the need for a quick escape? Well, as a perfectionist, a planner, an introvert, and a doer, I feel I need to have things in a certain order for a good program. I also want to admit that I am a service addict. My happy place is when I am able to make everyone feel loved and cared for by meeting their needs. This takes a lot of energy. When I let the program itself or what I feel the expectations of what is needed for the program lead me, or when things don’t go as planned, I can easily feel like a failure. This leads to spending so much time listening to the expectations of myself or others that I miss out on what God is urging me to do.

God and I have had many conversations about this and He has shown me that when leading people to Him, my biggest stumbling block is in my own head. In my little trip outside the church, when I was caught up in my fears and worries, I was letting my feeling of insecurity cripple me from doing what God has called me to do. When we allow the expectations of ourselves or others to dictate how things should be, we can stop the Spirit of God from moving freely.

The story of the Wise Men being led to Jesus is a great analogy of getting out of our head and being led by the heart of God. These men knew many things but they were humble enough to listen to God’s voice and be led in little ways that made a big impact. They knew the stars and prophecies that helped them navigate their way to Jesus, but they were sensitive to the voice of God through a dream. King Herod had different plans for Jesus and the wise men. Take a moment and think about what would have happened if the wise men had rushed back to share with King Herod the location of baby Jesus. I think we all understand that if the wise men were more interested in pleasing King Herod than listening to the voice of God, this story may have had a very different ending. Thankfully, they listened to God and obeyed His leading.

God does not use us because of our ability. He uses us in our humility. When we humbly seek His heart by prayer and reading His Word, He gives us the peace and clarity that we need. He has already given each of us talents and abilities and these can be “treasures” that we give back to Jesus. For the wise men, these “treasures” were gold, frankincense, and myrrh. For us, it may be hospitality, the ability to sew, paint, crochet, or cook. Some of us are teachers. Some of us are great listeners. Whatever your ability, gift, or treasure, all of us have been called by God to lead others to Him. This begins when we humbly ask Him to help us be the leaders that He wants us to be. As we recognize the need for Him to be the center of all we do, and as we lay our treasures and gifts at His feet, He will strengthen us for every good work.

I have a different approach as I plan for our weekly women’s meeting. I have more freedom to delegate programs to other women because God has released me from the need to have everything done to my standard of perfection. I listen to the needs of the women and instead of rushing to please them, we go to God together and pray for one another. I take time to plan but ask the Lord to use the time of our meeting to do His plan and His work. Getting out of my head has allowed me to be able to enjoy these women’s meetings as we create things together, serve others together, study the Bible together, and share our hearts and pray together.

Today, there is freedom from anxiety in the heart of Jesus. Join me in asking Him to help us get out of our heads and lead with His heart.

December 2021 Bible Study: Seeking the King

By Mistie Lamb
Intermountain Division

Christmas is a time to celebrate the birth of Jesus. We know that Jesus wasn’t born on December 25th of course, but this is the time we set aside to celebrate His birth, his first physical appearance on earth. The miraculous birth of this small baby is the introduction to world of the one true King. His birth and the reaction of those we see in this bible passage are important reminders to us of how we should continue to seek Him even still. While there are many distractions especially in this special season, we are reminded in this passage of scripture that we can get back on track and that we will be rewarded by His very presence when we do. Let this season be an opportunity to seek Jesus, our King, above all else.

Matthew is the first of four gospels which opens the New Testament. Written by Matthew (Levi) shortly after Jesus walked the earth. Matthew was called by Jesus to be one of His disciples as he was busy collecting taxes (not the most honorable or favored career). Matthew wrote this account of Jesus’ time on earth in hopes of confirming to the Jewish Church that Jesus was, in fact, the Messiah by showing the fulfillment of many, though not all, of the Old Testament prophecies. Chapter one begins with the lineage of Jesus and ends with His birth. Our study, Chapter 2, verses 1 – 12 leads us into the visit of the Magi and King Herod’s plot to destroy Jesus. This portion of Scripture speaks to us about two kings. The earthy ruler of the time, Herod, and the King of Kings, Jesus. Let’s follow along as these men, seek their King.

Read Matthew Chapter 2:1-12

Verses 1-6
The Magi, or wise men, arrive in Jerusalem and inquire as to where they can find the Messiah since they saw His star, and followed it to worship Him. However, when King Herod hears this news, we see he is troubled and asks where he, too, can find the Messiah.

Many people seek the Messiah, but not everyone has good intentions. King Herod knows of the prophesy and understands that Jesus is the rightful ruler. He is undoubtedly concerned. The Bible says he is “troubled” at the birth of the Messiah, and he is sure that Jesus will one day want to take possession of the throne while either he himself sits on it or his offspring. However, we also see these three wise men, travel a long distance, from the east, to find the Messiah. They have come to worship Him. One looks to destroy the Messiah and the others look to worship Him.

  1. What is your motive in seeking the King?
  2. What is the benefit of checking our motive? (see Proverbs 21:2, 1 Corinthians 16:14)
  3. What are some ways we can help others to seek Him?

Verses 7-12
In the second half of our study, we see that Herod is determined to find the Messiah. He calls the Magi to him to get more information about when exactly they first saw the star, then he sends them to go find Jesus and then report back to him, under the guise that he, too, wants to worship the Messiah. After leaving Herod, the wise men continue to follow the star, which brings them to the exact spot where Jesus is. When they come into the house, they fall to the ground to worship the true King and offer their gifts. God then warns them in a dream not to return to Herod but to go home via a different route.

I’m struck in this last passage by the Magi’s interaction with King Herod. It was not in their plans to take this detour on the way to seek the Messiah, yet they find themselves rerouted. Distracted by this earthly king, whose motive we know is not actually to worship Jesus, but to destroy Him. Nonetheless, they get back on track and eventually make it to Jesus. Their journey to seek the King does indeed end successfully. How many times in our own journey have we been re-routed, distracted, or waylaid by the enemy?

I often find that when I intentionally set aside time to worship or study or seek Jesus, that the distractions are at their strongest. However, we can be encouraged by the steadiness of the Magi, that if we get back on track, despite the detours, that we, too, will have our time to worship. God is not hiding from us. He put a large, bright star in the night sky pointing the wise men straight to Jesus. The second half of Hebrews 11:6 tells us that he rewards those who earnestly seek Him. Just as the Magi were rewarded by being in the very presence of the Messiah so, too, can we find this same reward.

  1. What are some distractions or detours that try to keep you from worshiping?
  2. What can you do to get quickly back on track after a distraction or detour, however long?
  3. What are the rewards of remaining faithful in our journey to seek the King? (See Matthew 6:31-33, Psalm 34:4)

There can be many distractions through the Christmas season. Parties to attend, gifts to buy and wrap, volunteering to be done, memories to be made, but we can see that even in the midst of distractions and detours, God is not hiding. In fact, we read in Luke 19:10 that Jesus came to seek and save the lost! Us!! So, as we go about celebrating this season of Jesus’ birth, let’s remember to be intentional seekers of Him. Let’s be reminded to check our motives as we do all the wonderful things that make this season so beautiful.

And finally, if we do find ourselves distracted, or re-routed, we can easily get back on track and find that our journey to seek Him will eventually lead to Him, and we can enjoy His goodness and presence.

Prayer
Lord, as we read these verses today, I ask that You speak to our hearts. Teach us the importance of seeking You and of doing so with a right heart. Help us to set aside the things that try to distract us and route us away from You and to focus on the true meaning of this season. We are so thankful, Jesus, that You willingly came as a baby and made the way for our redemption. We give You all the glory and honor as we worship You, Lord. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Download the printable version of this Bible study

Note: Check out this month’s craft, Wise Men Seashell Ornament and this month’s devotional, A Gift of Significance that coordinates with this Bible study.

December 2021 Devotional: A Gift of Significance

By Captain Betzy Hanson
Colorado Springs, CO Corps – Intermountain Division

Read Matthew 2:1-12

What the Wise Men Brought to Jesus
If you ever watched the movie, The Nativity Story, when it was released in 2006, then you would have witnessed the scene when the wise men brought their gifts to Jesus. As the wise men lay their gifts before Jesus they explain the significance of each gift. Here is the quote from the movie. “Gold for the King of kings, Frankincense for the Priest of priests, a gift of myrrh to honor thy sacrifice.” As I watched this scene I was overwhelmed with tears. The writer who developed this scene did a great job of explaining what each gift represents.

Here is a brief explanation of each gift that was given: First, Gold is a precious metal, but it is also a sign of wealth and royalty. Frankincense is an incense that was sprinkled on sacrifices offered to the Lord and was also used in the tabernacle (Leviticus 24:7). The last gift was Myrrh which was used for embalming and has some healing properties as well.

Now, let’s look at the significance of each gift. When we look at Solomon’s Temple in the Bible, we read that his goblets and household items were made of gold. This is because if it was anything less than gold it was considered unworthy for a king (2 Chronicles 9:20). Gold was given to Jesus because He is greater than Solomon. Gold is not a typical gift for a child unless he is a king. So, the wise men knew the child they were visiting was going to rule and shepherd Israel. They knew he was King.

Frankincense is a priestly fragrant oil used throughout the Old Testament for sacrifices. When Jesus was born, he became the High Priest. Hebrews 4:14 says, “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.” Frankincense was not given by coincidence; it had a significant reason of why it was given to Jesus. Jesus was going to give His life as the ultimate sacrifice for our sins. Which brings me to the last gift . . .

Myrrh. Through this gift we see the humanity of Jesus. It is shown in this gift because we know that Jesus died on the cross. In the book of John, we read that a mixture of myrrh and aloe was put on him and then his body was wrapped in cloth (John 19:38-40). According to scripture these gifts were chosen through prophecy. “But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel” (Micah 5:2-4). The wise men knew that Jesus’ birth was fulfilling prophecy so they prepared their gifts for the Ruler who was born to save the world. These wise men knew that hope was not lost for God’s people. They knew that Jesus’ birth was going to bring change. These three gifts were of great significance, because they show Jesus as King, High Priest, and man.

My Gift of Significance
My life completely changed when I found out I was pregnant with my second daughter, Adaline. Because of secondary infertility, and the loss of two babies, my husband and I were not able to grow our family like we wanted, but God had other plans. Adaline came to us as an unexpected but pleasant surprise. This pregnancy was truly a miracle from the Lord. Eden (my first born) was born in October 12, 2004 and Adaline was born on June 20, 2019. Yes, my girls are almost 15 years apart. When time came to get ready for the new baby, I realized I had nothing. I was starting all over.

Thank God my family and friends gathered to throw me an amazing baby shower. Some gifts were typical gifts like clothes, a stroller, a car seat, diapers, and burp cloths. But as the party came to an end, I received a very significant gift. My grandmother slowly walked up to me near the end of the party, hugged me and then handed me a very small pair of pink shoes. As she handed them to me, I immediately recognized them. They were my fist born Eden’s, baby shoes. As I held these little baby shoes, I cried. I cried because I thought all hope of conceiving another child was gone. I cried because the significance of this gift meant that I was going to have a little baby to fill these shoes. I cried tears of joy, rejoicing over what God had done in my life.

Your Significant Gift
God doesn’t want only the gifts of time, money, or your service to others. God wants all that we are. He wants the hidden, the seen, the bad, the sad and the hurt. He wants it all. This may sound cliché, but this is what God wants, our complete life. What significant gift will you bring to Jesus today. Will you surrender all your life? He wants us to bow down and present our lives before him. Romans 12:1 says, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.”

Have you taken the time to prostrate yourself before God to give all your life to him? Sometimes in our busy life we see service to others as more valuable than laying all we are before God. We may not say it, but by our actions, and the way we spend our time to get the job done, we show it. God wants us to know him deeper, and the way we do this, is by spending time with Him. So today I encourage you to lay your gift of significance before Jesus. Take at least five minutes of your day, put some worship music on, and just soak in God’s presence. The wise men bowed down and worshiped Jesus. “Then they opened their treasures and presented him with their gift.” (Matthew 2:11). Let’s bow down and worship the King of kings, the Priest of priests and the hope of all the world that was born to save us so that we can have freedom and eternal life in Him.

Note: Check out this month’s craft, Wise Men Seashell Ornament, and this month’s Bible study, Seeking the King that coordinates with this devotional.

Thanksgiving Verses and Quotes

As we focus on the celebrating Thanksgiving, let’s remember that Thanksgiving isn’t just about one day where we join with family and friends for lots of delicious food, fellowship, and a good football game (or two). May these verses and quotes remind you about what true thanksgiving is.

“Be thankful. God has commanded it – for our good and His glory. God’s command to be thankful is not the threatening demand of a tyrant. Rather, it is the invitation of a lifetime – the opportunity to draw near to Him at any moment of the day.” Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. Colossians 4:2

“As a matter of fact, God isn’t asking you to be thankful. He’s asking you to give thanks. There’s a big difference. One response involves emotions, the other your choices, your decisions about a situation, your intent, your step of faith.” Joni Eareckson Tada

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. Psalm 107:1

“The thankful heart sees the best part of every situation. It sees problems and weaknesses as opportunities, struggles as refining tools, and sinners as saints in progress.” Francis Frangipane

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

“A spirit of thankfulness is one of the most distinctive marks of a Christian whose heart is attuned to the Lord. Thank God in the midst of trials and every persecution.” Billy Graham

Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise him name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations. Psalm 100:4-5

“Grumbling and gratitude are, for the child of God, in conflict. Be grateful and you won’t grumble. Grumble and you won’t be grateful.” Billy Graham

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. Colossians 2:6-7

“It is one thing to be grateful. It’s another to give thanks. Gratitude is what you feel. Thanksgiving is what you do.” Tim Keller

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:17

“Genuine thankfulness is an act of the heart’s affections, not an act of the lips’ muscles.” John Piper

I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds. Psalm 9:1

“Thanksgiving with the mouth stirs up thankfulness in the heart.” Joh Piper

I will give thanks to the Lord because of his righteousness; I will sing the praises of the name of the Lord Most High. Psalm 7:17

“God doesn’t want us to just feel gratitude, but for us to show it by giving thanks to God with our lives.” R.C. Sproul

…Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Ephesians 5:19b-20

If there was ever a secret for unleashing God’s powerful peace in a situation, it’s developing a heart of true thanksgiving.” Lysa TerKeurst

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7