VIDEO Celtic Woman / Chloe Agnew, ”O Holy Night”

May 19, 2007

Celtic Woman, starring the angelically lovely Chloe Agnew, performs ”O Holy Night,” from the Celtic Woman concert at Slane Castle, in Ireland.

This song was never broadcast on television, or released in the DVD of the concert.

Thanks Journal

Praise the Lord, all you nations; extol him, all you peoples. Psalm 117:1

When I was a new believer in Jesus, a spiritual mentor encouraged me to keep a thanks journal. It was a little booklet I carried with me everywhere I went. Sometimes I would record a thanksgiving right away. Other times, I would pen it at the end of the week during a time of reflection.

Taking note of praise items is a good habit—one I’m considering re-establishing in my life. It would help me to be mindful of God’s presence and grateful for His provision and care.

Father, if we were to record all of Your blessings, we could not complete the task in a lifetime.

In the shortest of all the psalms, Psalm 117, the writer encourages everyone to praise the Lord because “great is his love toward us” (v. 2).

Think about it: How has the Lord shown His love toward you today, this week, this month, and this year? Don’t just look for the spectacular. His love is seen in the ordinary, everyday circumstances of life. Then consider how He has shown His love toward your family, your church, and to others. Let your mind soak up the extent of His love for all of us.

The psalmist added that “the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever” (v. 2 emphasis added). In other words, He will continue to love us! So we will continue to have many things to praise God for in the coming days. As His dearly loved children, may praising and thanking God characterize our lives!

Father, if we were to record all of Your blessings, we could not complete the task in a lifetime. But we can pause this moment to say a simple “Thank You” for Your faithfulness and goodness.

Remember to thank God for the ordinary as well as the extraordinary.


By Poh Fang Chia 


Have you noticed how hard it can be to be thankful when we are focused on what has been withheld from us? Our first parents, Adam and Eve, were probably content until they were led to believe that God was holding out on them.

Many generations later, the family of Israel struggled with contentment and thankfulness during their journey to the Promised Land. God gave them the annual celebration of Passover to help them remember their wonder-filled rescue from slavery in Egypt. In a group of songs known as the Egyptian Hallel (Pss. 113–118) they reminded one another to “give thanks to the Lord” for His faithful acts of love that fill the earth and endure forever (118:1). Those words aren’t just for God’s chosen people, Israel. In Psalm 117, the shortest of all of their national psalms, Israel invites the nations of the world to join with them in their songs of thanksgiving for God’s goodness and miraculous acts of rescue.

Together we are all still learning to thank God—not for everything that has happened to us—but rather that, in everything, our good God is with us.

Mart DeHaan

Basics of Effective Meditation

Psalm 46:10

You may wonder, How can I incorporate genuine meditation into my Christian life? I believe that there are several basics of meditating that will reap tremendous benefits in your walk of faith.

1. Season of time. Do you hurry through your prayer time so that you can get to other things? Think about the model Jesus gave us. Did He ever rush through His prayer time? No, He made communing with the Father His priority, and everything else fell into place around that.

2. Stillness. We read the call to stillness in Psalm 46:10 (NIV), yet we may wonder, What does it mean to “be still”? Simply put, it means that we stop everything else. This can be difficult for us in this fast-paced, multi-tasking world. We’ve gotten used to doing a dozen things at once! However, true meditation requires that we focus our minds on only one thing: almighty God.

3. Seclusion. This is something that the Lord really had to fight for in His ministry, as He was constantly surrounded by people. While attending to their needs, He also guarded His need for seclusion. Often in the gospels, we see Jesus retreating for some private, intimate time with the Father. No matter what else was going on, Jesus always made a point to safeguard chunks of time here and there to rest in the Spirit, focus on His relationship with the Father, and build up His strength.

Is your prayer life characterized by time set apart and safeguarded so you can be alone with God and still? Commit today to build these essentials into your day.

Jesus Christ: Creator

“For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him.” (Colossians 1:16)

The Old Testament uses several names for the One who created. For example: “For thus saith the LORD [i.e., Jehovah] that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it” (Isaiah 45:18). But the New Testament leaves no doubt as to who the Creator is.

Today’s verse states it clearly. The “him” in context is the Father’s “dear Son” (v. 13) who shed “his blood” (v. 14). Similarly, the favorite passage in John 1:3 identifies Christ as the Creator: “All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.” “He was in the world, and the world was made by him” (v. 10). “The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us” (v. 14). No member of the human race nor member of the Trinity fits this description except Jesus Christ. “God . . . hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds” (Hebrews 1:1-2).

Jesus Christ is the Creator, and once He put on human form, His creative abilities continued to find application. Several of His miracles involved creation out of nothing. Note the feeding of the 5,000 (John 6:10-11), the transformation of water into wine (John 2:9-11), and bringing life from non-life—the raising of Lazarus (John 11:43-44), just to name a few.

Perhaps the most important creative act of Christ is one He performs on repentant sinners every day. “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17). JDM

I will heal their backsliding

Hosea 11:1-11

Hosea 11:1

The ancient love and grace of God ought to have been a powerful motive for obedience, but it was not.

Hosea 11:2

The more they were warned, the more they sinned. Alas, how many do the same!

Hosea 11:3, 4

As the husbandman gives rest to the oxen, removes their yoke, and feeds them, so the Lord set his people free and supplied their needs, and yet they revolted from him.

Hosea 11:9

Mark the tender love of God, and his unwillingness to smite his people. The same conflict is in his soul still towards sinners. Such compassion should lead us to repentance.

Hosea 11:10, 11

At last in alarm they would fly to God, and he would save them. Even if sinners come to God entirely out of fear, he will not reject them.

Hosea 14

Hosea 14:1

What gracious pleading! Can we reject it as Israel did? If we do, we shall fall as they did.

Hosea 14:2, 3

Words are put into the sinner’s lips—will he not use them? He has only to give up his sins, and his false trusts, and God will pity him as he does children in distress. The next words are mercy itself written out in capitals.

Hosea 14:5

He shall be beautiful and enduring.

Hosea 14:6

He shall flourish and yield shade to others, he shall be fruitful, and therefore fair to look upon, and the fame of his happiness and excellence shall fly abroad like sweet perfume.

Hosea 14:7

His children and dependents shall be blest also; and shall enjoy divine favour in a manner most choice and sweet.

Hosea 14:8

All our goodness comes from God’s grace; we must for ever be barren without him. Let us study well these passages of sacred writ, for the next verse very solemnly calls us to devout attention.


Why Jesus Compared Unforgiveness To the Sycamine Tree

Luke 17:6

In Luke 17:1-6, Jesus taught His disciples about bitterness and unforgiveness and about how to remove these evil forces from one’s life. As an illustration, Jesus likened these forces to the sycamine tree that was so well known in that part of the world. The word “sycamine” comes from the Greek word sukaminos, and it is the Greek word that refers to a tree that grew throughout the Middle East.

When you understand everything that is connected to the sycamine tree, you’ll know exactly why Jesus chose to use this tree as an example of bitterness and unforgiveness in Luke 17:6. In that verse, Jesus told His disciples, “… If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye might say unto this sycamine tree, Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea; and it should obey you.” Notice that Jesus said, “… Ye might say unto this sycamine tree….” The word “this” indicates that Jesus was pointing out something very specific to them.

Keep in mind that Jesus was speaking of getting rid of bitterness and unforgiveness. In Luke 17:3, He told the disciples that they needed to forgive those who sinned against them. He then took it to the maximum in Luke 17:4 by saying that even if a brother does something wrong seven times in one day and is each time truly repentant, they were to keep on forgiving that offending brother.

Forgiving once is already a challenge for most people. But to forgive someone seven times in one day almost sounds impossible to many folks. It must have sounded preposterous to the disciples as well, for they said, “… Lord, Increase our faith” (Luke 17:5). This statement was the equivalent of their saying, “Lord, we don’t know if we have enough faith to forgive so many times in one day. You’ll have to increase our faith if we’re going to do this seven times in one day!”

That is when Jesus began to teach His disciples about speaking to bitterness and unforgiveness.

He said, “… If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye might say unto this sycamine tree….” When Jesus used the word “this,” it was the equivalent of Jesus’ telling them, “Bitterness and unforgiveness are just like the sycamine tree—and if you really want to be free of these attitudes, you can speak to this menacing growth in your life and command it to be planted in the seal”

Before we can understand what Jesus taught about getting rid of bitterness and unforgiveness, we first need to see why He used the sycamine tree to illustrate these destructive forces. Was there a particular reason why He didn’t use an oak tree, an apple tree, or a palm tree in this illustration? Why did He use the sycamine tree to symbolize the detrimental effects of bitterness and unforgiveness in a person’s life?

As you look at the characteristics of the sycamine tree listed below, I believe you will comprehend why Jesus used this particular tree in this context.

1. The sycamine tree had a very large and deep root structure.

The sycamine tree was known to have one of the deepest root structures of all trees in the Middle East. It was a vigorous and robust tree that grew to a height of thirty feet or more. Because its roots went down so deep into the earth, it was very difficult to kill. Hot weather and blistering temperatures had little effect on this tree because it was tapped into a water source down deep under the earth. Even cutting it to its base would not guarantee its death because its roots, hidden deep under the ground, would draw from underground sources of water, enabling it to keep resurfacing again and again. In other words, this tree was very difficult to eradicate.

No wonder Jesus used this tree as an example of bitterness and unforgiveness! Like the sycamine tree, bitterness and unforgiveness must be dealt with clear to the roots, or they will keep springing up again and again. The roots of bitterness and unforgiveness go down deep into the human soul, fed by any offense that lies hidden in the soil of the heart. That hidden source of offense will cause these evil forces to resurface in a person’s life over and over again. It will take a serious decision for that person to rip those roots of bitterness and offense out of his heart once and for all so they can’t grow back in the future.

2. The sycamine tree’s wood was the preferred wood for building caskets.

In Egypt and the Middle East, the sycamine tree was considered to be the preferred wood for building caskets and coffins. It grew quickly and in nearly any environment, making it accessible in many different places. It also grew best in dry conditions—the kind of conditions for which the Middle East is famous. These are two reasons sycamine wood was used in so many places for building caskets and coffins.

Again, we can see why this illustration of the sycamine tree is so ideal for portraying bitterness and unforgiveness. Just as the sycamine tree grew very quickly, so does bitterness and unforgiveness. In fact, it doesn’t take too long at all for these evil forces to get out of control and start taking over the whole place! When these fast-growing and ugly attitudes are allowed to grow freely, they not only spoil the condition of your own heart, but they ruin your relationships with other people.

Also, just as the sycamine tree grew easily in every environment, so does bitterness. It doesn’t matter where people are from, where they live, what kind of cultural background they grew up in, or what level of society they belong to—bitterness and unforgiveness grow in human hearts everywhere, for they are universal in their scope of evil influence.

The sycamine tree grew best where little rain fell and water was sparse. Isn’t this just like bitterness and unforgiveness? These negative attitudes flourish where spiritually dry conditions exist. You can almost count on finding bitterness and unforgiveness growing and blossoming where there is no repentance, no joy, and no fresh rain of the Spirit.

And don’t forget that sycamine wood was the preferred wood for building caskets and coffins. What a powerful message this is! It tells us that bitterness and unforgiveness are deadly. Harboring bitterness will spiritually bury you more quickly than anything else! These attitudes are the materials that Satan uses to put you six feet underground!

Let me stress this point to you because it’s so important: If you permit bitterness and unforgiveness to grow in your life, it won’t be long until these attitudes have killed your joy, stolen your peace, and canceled out your spiritual life!

3. The sycamine tree produced a fig that was very bitter to eat.

The sycamine tree and the mulberry tree were very similar in appearance; the two trees even produced a fruit that looked identical. However, the fruit of the sycamine tree was extremely bitter. Its fruit looked just as luscious and delicious as a mulberry fig. But when a person tasted the sycamine fig, he discovered that it was horribly bitter.

Mulberry figs were delicious and therefore expensive. Because of the cost of this fruit, it was primarily eaten by wealthier people. But the sycamine fig was cheap and therefore affordable to poorer people. Because the poor couldn’t afford the luscious mulberry fig, they munched on the sycamine fig as a substitute.

However, the sycamine fig was so bitter that it couldn’t be eaten whole. In order to consume an entire sycamine fig, the eater had to nibble on it a little bit at a time. After a pause, the eater would return to nibble on it again, but he could never devour an entire piece of this fruit at one time; it was just too tart and pungent to eat at one sitting.

Jesus lets us know that like the sycamine fruit, the fruit of bitterness and unforgiveness is bitter, tart, and pungent. Like the fig, most people who are bitter and filled with unforgiveness chew on their feelings for a long time. They nibble on bitterness for a while; then they pause to digest what they’ve eaten. After they have reflected deeply on their offense, they return to the memory table to start nibbling on bitterness again—taking one little bite, then another little bite, then another. As they continue to think and meditate on their offense, they internalize their bitter feelings toward those who have offended them. In the end, their perpetual nibbling on the poisonous fruit of bitterness makes them bitter, sour people themselves.

And just as the primary consumers of the sycamine fruit were poor people, those who sit around and constantly meditate on every wrong that has ever been done to them are usually bound up with all kinds of poverty. Their bitter attitude not only makes them spiritually poor, but they are also frequently defeated, depressed, sick, and financially poor as well.

4. The sycamine tree was pollinated only by wasps.

It is very interesting to note that the sycamine tree was not naturally pollinated. The pollination process was only initiated when a wasp stuck its stinger right into the heart of the fruit. Thus, the tree and its fruit had to be “stung” in order to be reproduced.

Think of how many times you have heard a bitter person say: “I’ve been stung by that person once, but I’m not going to be stung again! What he did hurt me so badly that I’ll never let him get close enough to sting me again!” It is likely that people who make such a statement have been “stung” by a situation that the devil especially devised to pollinate their hearts and souls with bitterness and unforgiveness. When a person talks like this, you can know for sure that the wasp of bitterness got to them!

Jesus said that in order to rid this nuisance from one’s life, a person must have faith the size of “a grain of mustard seed.” The word “grain” is the Greek word kokkos. It describes a seed, a grain, or a very small kernel. Jesus uses the example of a “mustard” seed in this example. The word “mustard” is the Greek word sinapi, which refers to the small mustard plant that grows from a tiny, miniscule seed.

By using this word, Jesus was telling His disciples that a great amount of faith is not needed to deal with bitterness and unforgiveness. Any person who has even a tiny measure of faith can speak to bitterness and unforgiveness and command them to leave—if that is really the desire of his heart.

So what is your desire today, friend? Do you genuinely wish to be free from the bitterness, unforgiveness, and offense that has festered in your soul for so long? Are you ready to rip those destructive roots clear out of your heart so they won’t be able to resurface in your life again? Are you tired of those detrimental attitudes killing your joy, stealing your peace, and nullifying your spiritual life? If so, be sure to read tomorrow’s Sparkling Gem so you can find out exactly how to permanently eradicate these attitudes from your life!


Lord, thank You for speaking to my heart about getting rid of bitterness, unforgiveness, and offense. I know from experience that these attitudes are a killer to my spiritual life. When I am filled with bitterness and unforgiveness, I become a sour hostage to my memories. When I am consumed with offense, I lose my joy and peace and my relationships with other people are horribly affected. I thank You for giving me all the faith I need to deal with this issue, Lord. Today I am asking You to help me start the process of ripping those foul roots out of the soil of my heart and soul.

I pray this in Jesus’ name!


I confess that I genuinely wish to be set free from bitterness, unforgiveness, and offense. I am weary of the way these poisonous roots have produced their deadly fruit in my life for so long. I am ready to do whatever is required to rip those roots clear out of my heart so they won’t be able to resurface in my life again. By the power of the Holy Spirit and the authority God has given me, I repent of these detrimental attitudes that have been killing my joy, stealing my peace, and nullifying my spiritual life. By faith I am walking free from these enemies of my soul.

I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!


  1. Have you been harboring ill feelings deep inside your soul that are now beginning to affect your spiritual life? Have you been feeling “dead” on the inside as a result of your tight hold on bitterness, unforgiveness, and offense?
  2. Who is that person or group of people against whom you have been harboring these feelings? Did those who offended you do anything to you that you haven’t been guilty of doing to someone else in the past?
  3. Has it helped you to hold on so tightly to these feelings of unforgiveness? Has bitterness improved the quality of your life? Have your relationships become richer and fuller as a result of your clinging to offense? What fruit has been produced in your life because you’ve allowed these negative attitudes to fester and grow?


Biblically Based Management From The Life Of Moses

During Israel’s trek across the desert, Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, paid him a visit, observed his style of operation, and offered some sage advice on management principles:


1. Allow mentors into your life: We need people around us who respect us but are not overpowered or impressed by us; people who are not afraid to tell us what we need to hear, rather than what we want to hear. “When his father-in-law saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he said, What is this you are doing for the people?What you are doing is not goodListen now to me and I will give you some advice, and may God be with you… ‘” (Exodus 18:14a, 17b, 19a) (See 1 Kings 12:1-19; Proverbs 11:14; 15:22; 24:6; 20:18; Isaiah 19:11-14)


2. Recognize your own limitations: Divest yourself of visions of grandeur, Lone Rangerism, the Napoleonic or Messianic complexes. President Eisenhower likened the indispensable man to a person who, after pulling his thumb out of a bucket of water left its impression. “Moses took his seat to serve as judge for the people, and they stood around him from morning till eveningHis father-in-law saw all that Moses was doing for the people, [and] said, What is this you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge, while all these people stand around you from morning till evening.‘” (Exodus 18:13b,14b) (See 1 Chronicles 29:11-14; Proverbs 16:18, 19; 26:12; John 3:27; 1 Corinthians 4:7; Galatians 6:3)


3. Model spiritual leadership: “You [Moses] must be the peoples representative before Godand show them the way to live… ” (Exodus 18:19b, 20b) (See John 13:15; 1 Corinthians 4:15, 16; 11:1; Philippians 3:17; 1 Thessalonians 1:6; 2 Thessalonians 2:14; 3:9)


4. Define responsibilities and supply appropriate training for them to do their job: “Teach them the decrees and lawsand the duties they are to perform.” (Exodus 18:20a,c) (See Deuteronomy 4:1; 5:1)


5. Select quality people for leadership positions. Jethro specified three characteristics:

  • Capable“: (Literally, virtue, valor and strength) (Exodus 18:21a) (See Joshua 6:2; Judges 6:12; 18:21)
  • Fear God” (Literally, fear and revere God) (Exodus 18:21a) (See Genesis 22:12; 42:18; Nehemiah 7:2; Ecclesiastes 12:13)
  • Trustworthy” (Literally, hate bribes ) (Exodus 18:21a) (See Jeremiah 5:1; Ezekiel 18:8; Zechariah 7:9; 8:16)

6. Delegate levels of responsibility: “Appoint [men] as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tensHave them serve as judges for the peoplebut have them bring every difficult case to you; the simple cases they can decide themselves. That will make your load lighter, because they will share it with you.” (Exodus 18:21, 22a,c) (See Acts 6:1-6)


7. Provide stability: “Have them serve as judges for the people at all times… ” (Exodus 18:22a) (See Exodus 18:26; 1 Corinthians 15:58)



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