Matt Coker | @BackRowOnline
Growing up, I never expected to be the guy that had federal agents tearing through my apartment.
I never expected to weep into my wife's shoulder as I confessed my sinful behavior.
I never expected to wake up in a concrete cell day-in and day-out.
I never expected to sit through a 12-step recovery meeting.
And most of all, I never expected, that if something like this were to happen in my life, that a few years later, I'd be extremely grateful for all of it.
Cipriano Martinez | @ciprianom79
As I sit here and think about the significance of Christmas and what it means to my household I can’t help but add to my thoughts, just where Jesus was on Christmas Eve Eve? I know that December 25th is just the date we celebrate Jesus’ birth but that don’t change the fact that our Savoir was born to take away our sins and open a door to eternity for all mankind.
So where was our Savoir on Christmas Eve Eve? Well the Bible tells us in Luke 2:1 that a decree was order by Caesar Augustus that all should be registered in his own town. So Joseph and his wife Mary (Jesus’ mom and step dad) started on a 111 Km trip to Bethlehem from Nazareth that will be around 80 miles. If you figure around 20 miles a day by foot this will be a four day trip. Joseph must have been pretty convincing to talk Mary at 8 months or so pregnant to travel on foot for four days.
Our biggest outreach to help aid those of us in recovery or just trying to be better Christians is our devotional section. We have a large staff of writers who've shared with you this year -- and you shared our devotionals with others in return! Here are the years most shared devotionals!
Matt Coker | @BackRowOnline
A few years ago, my wife and I traveled to the town I grew up in. I went to a Catholic school from 1st to 6th grade. One of the best things about this school, in my opinion as a kid, was the awesome custom playground they had. There was a set of swing-sets shaped like a cowboy and an Indian, a castle, a cool slide, and a whole bunch of other playground equipment that I’ve never seen anywhere else.
The last time I had been in my hometown was 10 years before that, but I hadn’t seen that playground since I was about 13. As we were pulling up to it, I was expecting to see all those old pieces torn down and replaced with typical plastic cookie-cutter playground stuff. I mean, the last time I saw the playground, it was pretty run down. Broken chains, paint peeling off, dents and cracks – it didn’t look long for this world.
To my surprise, we found the complete opposite. The playground still had all the original equipment, but it had definitely been fixed up. I saw broken pieces fixed, fresh coats of paint, everything looking brand new!
I felt like crying. To see something so unique and amazing not only still standing, but looking better than I ever remember seeing it as a kid, it really got me emotional!
And almost immediately, I saw the connection to my life.
Jeff Weddle | @Anti_Itcher
“Jeff, I got this great idea!” My dad said one unassuming evening. Oh dear, one never knew what my dad’s ideas were. Once he tried to teach our family Greek after supper. Alpha, beta, gamma dealt a blow to our evening plans, and after two valiant efforts, my father gave up. But occasionally his ideas were awesome. One never knew.
“What’s your idea?” I asked with some trepidation.
“This year, at grandma and grandpa’s house, we should make breakfast down by The Rock on Christmas morning.”
“Wouldn’t that be cold?”
“Probably, but it’ll be fun.”
“Won’t there be snow?”
“Of course, but that only adds to the excitement.”
No matter what my answer would be, I knew I’d be having breakfast down by The Rock on Christmas morning. My grandparents lived outside Rhinelander, Wisconsin on a lake. A lake with a large rock by it. A large rock that would apparently be the location of my Christmas breakfast.
Christmas morning came, and my dad’s plans, cooked up over the previous two months, were about to take form. We got up early, and to the snickers of our warm family, headed off to The Rock to make breakfast.
My dad carried a milk crate of food and supplies. I carried a saw and a thermos of hot chocolate. It was single digits cold, with plenty of snow on the ground. The Rock is a quarter-mile from the backdoor as the crow flies, but no crows were flying that morning. We walked and walked and walked. My dad occasionally glanced at his compass. “It keeps saying north is over there, but that can’t be right.” So we walked and walked and walked. Oh to be a crow.
Ellen Martin | @EllenMartin03
With Christmas coming up, it is popular to many to show acts of kindness towards others, donate to charities, etc. Most people know it is good to help others, but it is also what Jesus commands us to do all year round.
Matthew 25:31-46 depicts the final judgement of the world. To summarize the passage, Jesus separates the “sheep” from the “goats”. Jesus tells the sheep that they have fed, clothed, and welcomed those in need. This group of people asks Jesus when did they do these things, “And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’” (Matthew 25:40 ESV)
For the goats, however, Jesus says they did not take care of those in need. This group of people argues with Him (Matthew 25:44-45 ESV): “Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’”
Joseph Brazil | @BlackDog575
Have you ever been cheated, lied to, or spoken of falsely? Chances are you’ve been wronged. Many times over. What was your reaction? Did you choose to confront the wrongdoer in righteous anger or did you sit and stew over the offense and hold a grudge?
There are countless ways we as humans can think up in order to find justification. But where does that leave us in the end, once we’ve taken matters in our own hands.
We can look at literature to find a clear example of what grace and forgiveness means. One of my favorite works was written in 1862 by the French novelist Victor Hugo called Les Miserables. It tells the story of Jean Valjean, an escaped convict who emerges from his past and seeks redemption through material wealth and the love of his adopted daughter.
One event in the book stands out when Valjean is released from prison and is forced to wander on foot, living and sleeping in the streets. He is taken in by the town’s priest and given a place to rest and food to eat. In return, Valjean steals the silver candlesticks from the church and flees into the night. He is later caught by the police and returned along with the stolen goods to the priest.
But what happens next is hardly what you might expect.