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Candy Cane // Praise & Shine

According to the legend of the candy cane, this candy was first created back in the 18th century. At that time, in certain areas of Europe, there was said to be a ban on public displays of Christianity. Christians were oppressed and no Bibles or crosses could be owned at the time. One man found this oppression distressing and wished he could share the love of Jesus and the joy of Christmas with the rest of the world. When Christmas came around, children didn’t get to see nativity scenes or enjoy learning about the truth of Christmas. As a candy maker, this man prayed to find a way that he could offer local children a Christmas gift that would allow him to communicate the real story of Christmas.

His prayer led to an idea–The Candy Cane.

He chose to make the candy cane in the shape of a shepherd’s staff. After all, Jesus is the shepherd to his followers and the Bible notes that the “sheep” would hear His voice and follow him (Psalm 23:1, John 10:11, John 10:27-30, Isaiah 40:11). Not only was the candy cane in the shape of a staff, but when held upside down, it formed a “J,” which stood for Jesus (Luke 1:31, Matthew 1:21). The candy maker chose hard candy for the candy cane, which was done to remind children that Jesus was our “rock,” dependable and strong (Psalm 31:3). Wide red stripes were added to the candy cane, representative of the crucifixion and the blood Jesus shed for our sins. Through his blood, we are given salvation and life (Revelation 1:5, John 3:16, Luke 22:20). There are also white stripes on the candy cane, which represents the holiness, and purity of Jesus, who was sinless (I John 1:7). Peppermint was the flavor that the candy maker chose for the candy cane. Peppermint was very similar to hyssop, which was used for sacrifice and purification in the Old Testament, reminding us of the sacrifice that Jesus made for us. It also reminds us of the spices brought by the Wise Men when they came to visit Jesus (Psalm 51:7, John 10:29, Matthew 2:11). Of course, when the candy cane is eaten, it is often broken, which the candy maker meant as a reminder that when Jesus was crucified, his body was broken (I Cor. 11:24). The candy cane was also made to be given as a gift, representing the love of Jesus when he gave us the gift of salvation.

Although no one is quite sure if the legend of the candy cane is really true, the beauty of the legend is such a reminder of God’s love for us around Christmas. In this legend, it was a way that the candy maker could tell the children the story of Christmas, and still today, we have candy canes as a reminder of the real reason we celebrate Christmas.

12 Days // Praise & Shine

To many the lyrics of the song “The Twelve Days of Christmas” seem like a novelty in the vein of “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.” We are going to take a deeper dive into the hidden meaning of the lyrics of “The Twelve Days of Christmas.”

On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me… a partridge in a pear tree.

The partridge in a pear tree represents Jesus, the Son of God, whose birthday we celebrate on the first day of Christmas. Christ is symbolically presented as a mother partridge, the only bird that will die to protect its young.

On the second day of Christmas, my true love gave to me… two turtledoves.

These twin birds represent the Old and New Testaments where we find the complete story of our faith and God’s plan for the world.

On the third day of Christmas, my true love gave to me… three French hens.

These birds represent faith, hope, and love. This gift hearkens back to 1 Corinthians 13, the love chapter written by the apostle Paul.

On the fifth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me… five gold rings.

The gift of the rings represents the first five books of the Old Testament, known as the Torah.

On the sixth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me… six geese a-laying.

These lyrics come from the first story found in the Bible. Each egg is a day in creation, a time when the world was “hatched” or formed by God.

On the seventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me… seven swans a-swimming.

This one is a bit trickier with the seven gifts represent the gifts of the Holy Spirit: prophecy, ministry, teaching, exhortation, giving, leading, and compassion. As swans are one of the most beautiful and graceful creatures on earth, they would seem to be a perfect symbol for spiritual gifts.

On the eighth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me… eight maids a-milking.

As Christ came to save even the lowest of the low, this gift represents the ones who would receive his word and accept his grace. Being a milkmaid was one of the worst jobs one could have at the time. Jesus cared as much about servants as he did those of royal blood. The eight who were blessed included the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, and those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake.

On the ninth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me… nine ladies dancing.

These nine dancers represent the fruit of the Spirit. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

On the tenth day of Christmas my true love gave to me… ten lords a-leaping.

This is probably the easiest gift to understand. As lords were judges and in charge of the law, represents the Ten Commandments.

On the eleventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me… eleven pipers piping.

This is almost a trick question, as most think of the disciples in terms of a dozen. But when Judas betrayed Jesus and committed suicide, there were only eleven men who carried out the gospel message.

On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me… twelve drummers drumming.

The drummers are the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostles’ Creed. “I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth. I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. On the third day he rose again. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again to judge the living and the dead.

Rejoice, Pray, Give Thanks

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

We often struggle to understand what God’s will is for us, yet here it is, clear as day: God wants us to rejoice always, pray continually, and give thanks in ALL circumstances. Did you hear that word all? Give thanks always, all the time. 

God doesn’t ask us to ignore the difficult times, people, and circumstances to live out this scripture. Instead, God’s will is to rejoice always, pray continually, and give thanks in all circumstances. 

So what do we do when life’s not fair? There are two ways we can live our lives concerning this scripture. The first is to expect our lives to be simple and easy and life to go our way. If you’re living your life this way, you will set yourself up for a lot of disappointment, and it will be hard to live God’s will for your life, giving thanks in all circumstances. 

The second way you can live your life is to realize that we are nothing more than dust and to dust, we must return, it is much easier to look to God and see EVERYTHING as a gift. Life’s not fair, but what we deserve is death. With every heartbeat, we must recognize that our lives are a gift from God. 

So how do we get to the point where we can recognize everything as a gift? We already know the answer.

  1. Rejoice always. Celebrate what God is doing ALWAYS.
  2. Pray continually. It isn’t just praying a couple of times a day, it’s spending our whole lives in prayer. Don’t limit your time of intimacy with the Father. The Father is with us and want’s to be with us. But why pray continually if he already knows everything? Prayer can help us have a deeper understanding of ourselves. When we have a deeper understanding our ourselves, it deepens our relationship with God.  
  3. Give thanks in ALL circumstances. It doesn’t say to give thanks FOR all circumstances. I’m not thankful for all circumstances. Paul reminds us that we can give thanks IN them because the Father is IN them. We can live thanks in all circumstances because we don’t need to obtain favor. When we gave our lives over to Jesus, we put our trust IN Jesus. At that moment, Jesus and his life obtained everything that our life hadn’t. We obtained death. We can not obtain through any amount of work or effort what has already been given by grace.

When we are in the presence of God we will recognize all the things He is doing, and we will want to rejoice always. And when we are with Him, we can talk about everything. Pray continually. As we do, we will see that God is using absolutely everything, and we will be thankful. 

When you pay attention to the details you will see God everywhere. 

Ongoing Pursuit // Praise & Shine

Being a Christian isn’t something that’s one and done. It’s not something we can check off a list. The Lord intends us to keep learning and having new, goldy experiences all of our lives. As we continue to pursue God, we will face ongoing, daily challenges of maintaining steadfast growth.

Proverbs 19:20 “Get all the advice and instruction you can, so you will be wise the rest of your life.”

As we go through life, we’ll face continuous opportunities for new memberships, situations, investments, associations, relationships, career opportunities, and alliances. Not every opportunity will be a good one or even the right one. Many of them aren’t even sent by God. But as we seek the Father, bring each opportunity before him in prayer, He’ll show us the path we’re to follow as we seek to fulfill our purpose.

Jeremiah 29:11 “‘For I know the plans I have for you’, says the LORD. ‘They are plans for goog and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.'”

As more and more of your potential becomes a reality and you live out the purpose God’s planned for you, make sure that you are continuously seeking renewal.

Continually reaffirm your commitment to the Lord, reaffirm your priorities, re-establish your discipline, reaffirm your desire to do your best, rekindle your enthusiasm, refresh yourself in the Lord and revisit the vision God has for your life.

You can live in an ongoing state of renewal only if you rely on the Holy Spirit to be your constant and unending source of joy, love, faith, and confidence. God wants you to fulfill your potential and live out your purpose.

Be sure to choose to want what HE wants.

Limitless // Praise & Shine

When we take the time to reflect on the nearness of God and how He loves us dearly we should consider the attributes of God. I like to turn to the Psalms when I meditate on my relationship with God. Psalm 145:8-9 says “The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. The Lord is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made.

Often I think God’s mercy has a limit and that I have pushed Him beyond that limit. However, as we have just read, He is slow to anger, and He is abounding in steadfast love. His mercy is over us and He is good to everyone that He has made.

In Isaiah 41:10 we will read what God promises us and what this means for us. “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”

He tells us we have nothing to fear because He is with us and He is our God. He will never change. His promises remain the same.

“…Nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)

God’s love has no limit.