One Night Lit the World (Advent, Week 3)

Have you ever been in a situation where you were too terrified to speak? Shocked into frozen immobility?

Imagine for a moment the night of Jesus’ birth from the shepherd’s point of view. Suddenly their peaceful, starry night sky lit up with the glory of the Lord! And if that wasn’t enough, then an angel of the Lord dropped in with a heavenly message.

Can you even imagine? No wonder the angel’s first words were, “Do not be afraid.”

That shekinah glory of the Lord that Luke records here refers to the splendor and brilliance that radiates from God’s very presence. Scripture tell us that the shekinah glory manifested in the pillars of cloud and fire that led the Israelites out of Egypt. It shone from the burning bush for Moses. It appeared in the brightness of the cloud at Jesus’s Transfiguration.

The glory of the Lord was quite an attention-grabbing, heart-stopping manifestation, indeed. It was a sign of both God’s nearness and His remoteness.

And the Levitical shepherds of Bethlehem were completely surrounded by it. After 400 years of God’s silence where His glory never visibly shone over His people, God made His mighty presence unmistakably known.

Though the shepherds were likely terrified, the angel’s announcement did not foreshadow gloom and destruction. He trumped the Good News that the Savior promised by God had finally arrived!

And the angel’s Good News was not limited to the shepherds, but intended for all people. Not just those who are good for goodness sake. It was the Good News of the Gospel that Jesus Christ had arrived into this world to save all who believe from eternal separation from Him.

God’s plan of salvation promised in the Garden of Eden had finally been put in motion that night. That one, extraordinary, life-giving night. And God tasked those shepherds to get the word out.

It was an announcement of great joy that we are privileged today to share with others — especially during this beautiful Advent season. It is God’s message of love, reflected in the innocent eyes of a Baby.

The shepherds didn’t realize that they would be hearing the heavenly announcement that night which would change the course of eternity. That it was a night like any other in all of history before or since.

Those stunned shepherds were privileged to be part of one extraordinary night that changed the history of the world and become bearers of a story full of wonder.

So, like the shepherds, the angel reminds us, “Do not be afraid.”
Don’t be afraid to receive the Good News.
Don’t be afraid to believe that it is for you.
Don’t be afraid to celebrate with great joy that your eternal address has changed from lost to found, because of the sheer grace and vast love of God almighty.

Joy to the world, the Lord has come!
Let earth receive her king.
Let every heart prepare Him room,
Let heaven and nature sing! 

 


We would be honored for you to join us on this life-changing tour.

 

Join Me in the Holy Land

It was a warm desert day when I stepped into the Garden of Gethsemane that morning eight years ago. The sun fell in slants over the ancient stone wall, illuminating the centuries-old olive trees.

So this is where He prayed, I thought.

Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I go over there and pray.” … Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” Matthew 26:36, 38

This is where Jesus sweat blood as He contemplated the unfathomable suffering of the cross.

And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” Matthew 26:39

I found a secluded spot in the Garden that morning and fell to my knees. I poured out the shattered heart of a fresh divorce and the fear of becoming lost in the random shuffle of life. This was the intimate place of further still. The place where God met me alone amidst my greatest sorrow to began the healing process.

Then our group then went to Calvary where we received communion … looking straight at the empty tomb.

Words simply cannot describe that moment. That is why I want to share the experience with you!

Pastor Wayne Graumann and his lovely wife, Kathy, have joyfully partnered with me to offer a 10-day Biblical tour of the Holy Land. Wayne baptized me 27 years ago and holds a very special place in my heart.

He and I will tag-team teach at various sites on our journey, which include: Nazareth, Cana, a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee, Caesarea, Megiddo, Mt. Carmel, Mt. of Beatitudes, Capernaum, Bethsaida, Jaffa, the Jordan River, Caesarea Philippi, Jerusalem, the Mt. of Olives, Palm Sunday Road, Garden of Gethsemane, Western Wall, Via Dolorosa, Bethlehem, Qumran, a float on the Dead Sea, Jericho, Hezekiah’s Tunnel, Pool of Siloam, and the Garden Tomb (Calvary).

Won’t you join us?

Imagine Tours & Travel has led tours to Israel for over 20 years with excellence. Your 10-day tour price includes: round trip airfare, deluxe motor coaches, first class hotels, guided sightseeing, entrance fees to sites visited, breakfast and dinner daily, all taxes and fuel charges, and all gratuities.

Detailed Tour Information
Registration Form

We welcome all adults who desire to walk where Jesus walked: men, women, couples and singles. We know it takes time to plan, stockpile vacation time, and save funds, so we are letting you know 16 months in advance of our departure!

I pray that you will join us on this life-changing adventure!

If you have any questions whatsoever, please reach out to me directly at dpyle@artesianministries.org.

Riding a camel on the Mount of Olives!
Experiencing sunset in the Holy Land

New Wine Out of This Old Wine Skin

In September 2017, I visited a vineyard in upstate New York at the height of harvest season. My eyes feasted on the lush, green canopy under which large, juicy bunches of purple grapes hung from sturdy vines. Every slight breeze that ruffled the green oasis carried a sweet smell of ripe, luscious goodness.

I wanted to settle in and stay a while.

It was night and day compared to the last time I visited Gage Farm Vineyards during winter. The pruned vines appeared as lifeless sticks — old and unusable.

The harvest season offered a vision of lush abundance that caused a deep sense of peace and contentment. The winter season looked harsh and felt like hope had been pruned away with the canopy.

I walked down many rows in that vineyard during both seasons, Bible in my hand, reading John 15. Jesus tells His disciples: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser” (John 15:1). Those words made sense amidst the harvest, but seemed out of place in winter.

God brought to mind the parable in Matthew 9:17: “No one puts new wine into old wineskins. For the old skins would burst from the pressure, spilling the wine and ruining the skins. New wine is stored in new wineskins so that both are preserved.”

Winter looked and felt like an old wine skin.

Settling in and staying a while in winter never crossed my mind. I kept thinking, “How can these cold, lifeless sticks produce new wine?” My eyes desperately scanned each row for signs of life.

That’s how spiritual winter seasons feel. Sometimes it seems that God prunes so much out of our life it leaves us wondering, “How in the world is there anything left to prune, God?” We feel like a bloody, useless stump looking around a barren winter stick yard.

Maybe you are there right now. Maybe you feel the blood frozen on the stump of your dreams. You may be tempted to believe that the spring thaw is never coming. After all, what use is an old wine skin?

Let me tell you, fellow branch in God’s vineyard, God never prunes for the sake of pruning. He’s not trying to make an ornamental bonsai tree out of your life. God prunes to make us abundantly fruitful for His glory.

He promises: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, and see, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17) You and I may have some years under our belt and feel like an old wine skin.

But hold on a minute.

The Lord promises that His mercies arrive new every day (in every season) — even in winter. “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning. (Lamentations 3:22-23) He creates in us a clean heart — a heart transplant at our baptism.

We’re going to be spending some time in John 15:1-17 over the summer because there are beautiful truths we need to understand if we are to survive and thrive as a branch in God’s vineyard.

Whatever season you are experiencing, take heart. We may long to settle into the lush canopy full of ripe goodness, but harvest does not appear without winter pruning.

Only the Vinedresser sees the future of the branch. When God prunes us, He holds us safely in His mighty hands as He clears away the extraneous thoughts, words, and deeds from our life.

Sometimes when the winter is severe, you may think that He is absent.

Just remember, beloved, He is holding you TIGHT.

Be strong and courageous. Do not fear … for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6

 

Coming July 5, 2018, a brand new DVD Bible study series:

 

When Loneliness Feels Like It’s Swallowing You Whole

If you have ever felt the sting of loneliness for any period of time, you understand this truth: loneliness does not mean being alone.

Loneliness may impact us most deeply when we are in a crowd of people.

That’s because loneliness is a heart issue.

God created us to know Him and be fully known by Him on an intimate basis. Crowds are superficial, not intimate. Even those who know us best still do not know or understand the deepest and most desperate desires of our heart.

Although Jesus was God in the flesh, He experienced acute loneliness. In the hour of His greatest need as He hung on the cross of our making, the disciples abandoned Him. Even God the Father turned His back on His only Son so that God’s full wrath could be poured out on Jesus to be judged once and for all.

Jesus even taught His disciples about loneliness by talking about events that had not yet occurred:

Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. John 16:32–33

Jesus is the friend who lays down His life for His friends (John 15:13–15), sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24), and who has promised never to leave us nor forsake us but to be with us until the end of the age (Matthew 28:20).

Every believer has the presence of God in us through the power of the Holy Spirit. He lives in us and is our interpreter with God. In Christ, even though we may feel lonely, we are never alone.

Loneliness Is Not Depression

When people asked me how I felt during my time of divorce seven years ago, I found it difficult to discern between loneliness and depression. After looking up definitions and reading a few helpful articles, they were easier to identify.

Loneliness doesn’t feel good, but we are still able to function and carry on the tasks of everyday life. On the other hand, depression inhibits our ability to function.

Loneliness says, “I don’t want to get up and go to work.” Depressions says, “I can’t get up and go to work.”

Loneliness is more of a state of mind, whereas depression translates physically. My lack of appetite for a period of time was due to mild depression, not loneliness.

Loneliness can certainly lead to depression if it continues unchecked over long periods of time. That’s why those friends who stop by and insist on getting you out of the house even when you don’t feel like it are truly life savers.

Two Dangers of Loneliness

Two common phrases come to mind when we feel the effects of loneliness: (1) “I need to keep busy to keep my mind off of it,” and (2) “I need to find someone so I don’t feel so lonely.” The first is common, the second can be dangerous, and neither are the long-term solutions.

1. Busyness

Most of us battle loneliness with busyness. But at some point, the busyness subsides, and then what? Although non-stop activity can ease your stress and temporarily distract you from feeling overwhelmed, eventually you need to slow down and let the Lord heal your heart.

Allow God to work in the silence what you have covered up by noise. Otherwise, you will careen into the nearest wall at 200 mph in full-blown burnout.

2. Replacement Love

It’s normal to find yourself longing for someone to assuage feelings of loneliness. However, it’s dangerous when you look for that someone in all the wrong places — especially if you are married and that someone is not your spouse.

Instead of giving in and letting neediness make us vulnerable, ask God to shift your focus. Pursue interests that perhaps you have put aside.

I rekindled my interest for travel and photography with enthusiasm and have since have traveled to many states and countries.

I also spent significant time investing in my relationship with the Lord through increased personal Bible study, worship, attending conferences, retreats, and listening to sermon/Bible study podcasts. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of this investment.

Once you center your life in Christ and gain confidence without relying on horizontal relationships, you will be in a much better place spiritually and emotionally to embrace a new, healthy relationship when the Lord opens that door.

Declare War on Loneliness

You don’t have to live with loneliness. Period. Although it will inevitably happen, you don’t have to resign yourself to feeling like that until the Lord calls you home. We find the antidote in Scripture:

The secret of the Lord is with those who fear Him, and He will show them His covenant. Psalm 25:14 (NKJV)

The “secret of the Lord” is what God calls His people. They are those Jesus-loving special friends that every Christian needs. The word “secret” doesn’t mean a hush-hush utterance—it references our close, intimate friends who fear the Lord and with whom we share our joys, sadness, weaknesses, and strengths.

They are the friends you let into your messy home while you’re wearing sweats and no makeup. They are the precious few where we can confide real issues in real time.

We need those secrets of the Lord in our life to declare war on loneliness. Their love may look like chatting over a cup of coffee, but in the spiritual realm it’s like an impenetrable shield of love surrounding you in faith against the enemy’s darts of loneliness.

Loneliness can erect significant barriers that prevent God access to heal our heart and living life to the full.

The answer is short and simple: instead of giving into loneliness, lay claim to the nearness of God.

“Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).

Thank you, Lord.

*This post is a revised excerpt from my book, Without This Ring: Surviving Divorce.

Without This Ring by Donna Pyle

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Pastors, Will You Forgive Us?

Pastors have a high and difficult calling.

There are few things that boil my blood faster or put me on a soap box quicker than when I hear God’s people hurling mean-spirited or spiteful comments at God-loving, servant-hearted pastors.

It gets ugly when the sheep turn on their shepherds.

And Satan, along with the world, watches. Smiling.

I love intentionally encouraging my pastors. When I see them at some evening function during the week ― whether it’s Bible class, a ministry event, or worship team rehearsal ― I’m fully aware that they may have faced a particularly tough day. Chances are the enemy has lobbed some fiery darts at them, whether it’s tough counseling sessions, disheartening church politics, or the death of a member.

They also have those joy-filled days when they perform baptisms, weddings, and celebrate confirmands. But those days happen far less than the rest.

It’s a privilege to convey to my pastors and pastor friends just how important they are to God’s work and His church ― to let these grace-filled men of courageous faith know how much they, their families, and their ministries mean to so many. But I end up getting chokey.

So … to my pastors, all my pastor friends, and your beautiful families:

You embrace the calling that crucifies you every day. Yet sometimes we are the ones pounding in the nails.

Please forgive us.

You take up the cross of Christ without hesitation, not because it’s a job, but because it’s your very calling, passion and life purpose. Yet sometimes we watch from comfortable pews without lifting a finger as you stumble under the weight of that responsibility alone.

Please forgive us.

You love us enough to sacrifice family time, cut short vacations, and be on call 24-7-365. Yet when you need to unplug and allow God to recharge you, we haughtily demand that you re-engage and make yourself available.

Please forgive us.

When life blindsides us with loss, relationship difficulties, health scares, or financial burdens, you are the first to offer prayer and call in the posse to help. Yet when you need us, we wear busyness as a badge to dodge.

Please forgive us.

You willingly live in a glass house with our faces pressed against it, gracefully shouldering our smart aleck remarks. Yet when you lovingly ask us accountability questions, our self-righteous indignation could choke God Almighty.

Please forgive us.

But I want to you know…

You are not expendable.

You are VITAL.
You are VALUABLE.
You are LOVED.

As you stand at the vanguard of deadly spiritual warfare, it’s an amazing privilege to stand in God’s army with you. To heartily encourage you when you’re weary. And to follow where God calls you to lead.

THANK YOU for your integrity and tireless commitment.

Church, when was the last time you prayed for your pastors?

C’mon, let’s encourage our pastors today.

When the World Rages: Forgiveness on this National Day of Prayer

I arrive home from work Tuesday last week and flip on the TV.

I root around in the fridge for ingredients to start dinner. It’s hamburger night.

There’s this red-faced lady ranting loud from the TV that the groomer cut her dog’s toenails way too short to paint. Now her dog will have to go without her springtime pink toenail color.

Her eyes bulge and neck veins pop. She’s thinking of suing.

My hands go still in that raw hamburger meat. The onion stings the cut on my pinky finger.

When did middle-of-the-road annoyance become the autobahn of anger?

While I’m smashing onions into hamburger patties, there’s people in this world smashing rage like derby cars into tender hearts. Head-on collisions causing scars that only Jesus can mend.

How can we show the love and forgiveness of Jesus when we can’t see through the broken windshields of misplaced rage?

The hamburgers sizzle loud in the skillet and I file that question in the recesses of a tired brain.

I wake up this morning and drive in pre-dawn darkness to this National Day of Prayer breakfast at a neighboring church.

In a world where rage seems normal, do people set the alarm early to gather in prayer aside from Sunday anymore?

Expecting two cars and five people, my headlights find a filling parking lot and people filing into the warmth of welcoming fellowship.

Twenty-somethings to eighty-somethings fill the chairs to bow in prayer as one voice. The rage-filled world fades.

The light of hope rises with the first rays of dawn.

We sing, we pray, and I share about the importance of forgiveness in a world that wants to hang onto revenge. Heads nod.

Seeing is believing, we say. If the raging world sees raging believers, how can they even conceive of a loving God who forgives?

We’d be relegated to permanent darkness if Jesus had raged instead of forgave on that Good Friday.

Only His good can overcome evil — because returning evil with evil just overcomes us.

Wherever the battle rages — desert war zones or some battle in our churches, communities, or marriages — we need to know that we don’t fight alone. Easter was God’s assurance that the One who lives in us is stronger than all the world’s rage.

Where the world rages, don’t condemn the shouters, curse the future, or pick a side — practice the forgiveness that Jesus taught. And in the practicing, we become what we preach — love in spite of the rage.

Loving the ragers like Christ loved the haters.

So on this National Day of Prayer, we thank God for His Son Jesus Christ, who sacrificed his Holy life to teach us how to live — and forgive.

Unforgiveness picks a side.

Forgiveness picks a person — the Person of Jesus Christ.

RELEASES MAY 9th: Pre-order to receive Chapter 1 before it releases, downloadable Scripture cards on forgiveness, a 31-day devotional, and Bible reading plan. Click here.

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Welcome!

Artesian Ministries LLC

Welcome, friends! After months of praying, planning, and coordinating, God has blessed me with a wonderful new website and blog. I hope you find it easy to navigate and easy for us to stay connected.

There are some exciting new things coming in the next few months, including a new book, a brand new DVD Bible study series, and an opportunity to be part of the live audience for the upcoming taping of a brand new Bible study series. But we’ll get there.

First, I just want to thank you. For being part of this crazy journey. For letting me into your lives to occupy your valuable time. For your encouragement, challenges, prayers, and so many other things.

I hope you will take time to poke around on my new website. There are free downloads for Bible study reading checklists under “In The Word” and a list of places we can connect in person under “Events.” Please take a moment to drop your email over to the right so we can continue talking about Jesus together.

Walking through life with you is a high privilege, because we follow the One who already carved our path.

So…thank you.

Until next time, I pray that God’s unsurpassing peace guards your heart and mind in Christ.

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