Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Making Any New Year's Resolutions?

It’s New Year’s Eve. We’re on the brink of a place and time we’ve never been. One of the things people like to do to make the year more exciting is formulate a few resolutions. Resolutions are intended to help make the new year profitable and blessed. They are declarations of sorts. 

Our granddaughter and her friend have really enjoyed being at their youth event. Cassidy told us that all she wanted was to be there. Along the way though, she’s had to text us for this or that to help make the event better. Sometimes she asked for something on behalf of the friend she brought with her.  Even though she resolved to ask for nothing but to attend, she’s made a few declarations by sending us texts. Each time she’s asked for something we’ve done our best to get it for her. She trusts us enough to let us know what she needs. She has confidence that her declarations/ her resolutions will be met by us. She knows we love her and we would do anything we could to help her. 

Just by the fact of our acceptance to the Lord’s plan of salvation we are satisfied with entrance into heaven one day. That’s enough we say. And it is. Fortunately for us we have the opportunity to make petition to God for our needs along the way. Because of our relationship with God, we know we can ask Him for our life’s needs and He will answer. We know He loves us and we have confidence in His answers for our every need. We know He would do anything for us because He gave His very life for us.

What are your resolutions for the New Year? God knows this past year has had it’s ups and downs. There have been moments of great highs – joy beyond measure. He also knows there have been low moments – sorrows, rejections, pain, longings of the heart. How would you like this New Year to be different from the past? What do you really need? What do you want to declare? 

Oh beloved, God has a magnificent storehouse brimming full of everything you need for life and godliness. You can live a productive, meaningful, blessed life here and now. Although He’s saved you and you are headed for heaven, He is standing ready to supply all your needs according to His riches in glory.  Because you are His child, His declarations in the Word of God can be your declarations, your resolutions for the new year. 

Open up the Book of Resolutions and ask God to direct you to new heights with Him in 2014. He loves to grant His children’s desires, especially those which glorify Him. You can ask for more than heaven. You can ask to be more Christlike. You can ask to be more authentic. You can ask for greater faith, a deeper walk with Him or a better understanding of His Word. Do you need to be more loving? Ask Him for more love. How about more power over the enemy – his tactics, his lies, his deception.  He will answer those things that you have need of without batting an eye when they are according to His Word. More prayer, more diligence, more forgiveness, more gifts, greater understanding, and more. All those resolutions are met in Christ and sitting in the storehouse of God’s love.

Yes, heaven is yours. But because He loves you and He’s for you, there is oh so much more! Resolve to live in the light of His Word and let 2014 be the greatest time of faith you’ve ever had. Unlike New Year’s resolutions that get made and then forgotten, your resolutions and declarations of faith will be met in Christ who secured all the promises of God for you. Rejoice that where you are weakest, He is greatest. Ask Him for His will in everything and watch as He performs His will in you and through you in greater ways than you’ve ever seen before.

Isaiah 55:6  Seek the Lord while He may be found, Call upon Him while He is near.  

Matthew 6:33 But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Psalm 40:5 Many, O Lord my God, are the wonders which You have done, And Your thoughts toward us; There is none to compare with You. If I would declare and speak of them, They would be too numerous to count.

John 15:16 You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you.

Matthew 9:11 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!

Psalm 27:4 One thing I have asked from the Lord, that I shall seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the Lord And to meditate in His temple.

Philippians 3:13-14 Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Looking for Comfort? Go No Further than the Lord

Yesterday evening we delivered our granddaughter and her friend to a huge youth event. After helping serve supper to about 800 of those youth, we went to our motel room in town to settle in for the night. I actually fell asleep pretty quickly.  As I had drifted off to sleep it was quiet and the temperature was just right.  

I woke up about an hour later to a loud noise from outside, along with the realization it had grown quite warm in the room. It was a rude awakening from my restful state. Our chance to get away for a few days of leisure turned into a noisy interruption. 

Thankfully the thermostat was quickly adjusted. And thankfully also we found the noise outside our door to be a charter bus, which was warming up to pull away from the motel. Soon it was quiet again.
I picked up my phone for a moment to check the “news” on facebook. We have quite a few friends who are going through some rough stuff in their life. As I look at their posts, some of them are full of information about their quiet life’s interruption of pain, agony, disease, distress, loss and more.

Maybe your life has been interrupted too. You were enjoying everything just as it was. Good health, good marriage, good job, bright future and endless happiness. For most of us things slip up suddenly and we find ourselves face to face with the very thing that we never wanted to see. The temperature has been turned up and we’re flush with worry for the future. The noise pounding in our ears feels like it will never stop.  We become stressed, distressed and can’t seem to feel blessed anymore.  I know many of you have the noise and heat of life’s turmoil drowning out any other sounds.

Where can you go? What can you do? Escape is no alternative, for the bus is right outside your door and it is threatening to run you completely over. The thermostat of tribulation is stuck on high and you’re wringing wet with agony. Stress is all you feel. And you want to escape it all.  You just want it over so you can get back to your normal, everyday, beloved life.

It’s rough out there. And it’s rough where you are right now. Only God knows the final outcome. Only God knows the future, beyond your present troubles. Only God knows when the noise will quiet and the heat will subside. But He has made us promises for those times when nothing is going right. When the hurts and anguish and pressure and pain are almost unbearable, He has made sure and magnificent promises to get you through.

As the hymn writer penned, “There is a place of quiet rest. Near to the heart of God.” This is our shelter in the storm, our hideaway in the heat, our peace in the midst of it all. We’re promised that God will be with us through it, in it and beyond it. We’re not given the exact time the heat will subside or the noise will become quiet, but we are promised He will be with us, to comfort us, to bless us and to remain faithfully by our side all the days of our life.

Oh beloved, although you cannot run from your present circumstances, you can run to the Lord, who is with you! He has given you all His precious promises contained in His book of love. They are there to encourage you, to equip you, give you rest and get you through it all. Open up the Word of God and seek after your Word for the moment. Memorize it. Write it out. Tape it to your mirrors, post it on your dashboard. Stick it on your refrigerator. Believe it. Rest in it. Open up your heart and let Him soothe it with His balm of comfort. Let Him hold you in His everlasting arms. Let Him show you that He is able to do what only He can do. Even though your situation seems so unreal, His Word is real. Together you will make it. Together you will survive the onslaught. Together you will walk in peace knowing that, because He loves you and He’s for you, there will be quiet right now and peace forever as you rest in the light of His Word.

Psalm 119:50 This is my comfort in my affliction, That Your word has revived me.

Isiaiah 40:11 Like a shepherd He will tend His flock, In His arm He will gather the lambs And carry them in His heart…

2 Corinthians 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort.

Matthew 11:29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

Psalm 34:17-18 The Lord hears His people when they call to Him for help. He rescues them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; He rescues those whose spirits are crushed.

Psalm 9:9-10 The Lord is a shelter for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble.  Those who know Your name trust in You, for You, O Lord, do not abandon those who search for You.

Psalm 27:5 For in the day of trouble He will conceal me in His tabernacle; In the secret place of His tent He will hide me; He will lift me up on a rock.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Looking for True Strength and Real Freedom?

Zoos have always held a lot of enjoyment for us.  One time we were watching small monkeys and one of them had their hand caught in the cage. It seems the little animal had wanted something that was outside the cage. After grasping the item, their paw was then a fist. That fist wouldn’t fit back through the cage. Try as he might, the arm was not budging. No amount of squealing, jumping or pulling was going to achieve a thing. Only when he let go of the object he had so wanted was he able to pull his arm back inside the cage was he able to free himself from entanglement.

Traveling through the airports now, it’s a big deal to go through the checkpoint to get on the plane. You empty your pockets and get every little thing checked. There are simply some things you cannot take on board with you. If you insist on taking things that they don’t allow, you will be barred from your flight. Fight them, argue with them, demand your rights – it all turns out the same. You will not be carrying anything on the plane they consider unfit. The only way to be free to travel is to learn how to pack.
There is a freedom God desires for you to walk in that will require you to let go of what is entangling you. It may be something you desperately want to keep or have desired for some time. It could be a person, place or thing.  You want to be free, but you keep hanging on. If you will let go you will find the freedom that is best for a child of God. He doesn’t want your stuff, but He does want your heart. And it’s amazing how much stuff and hearts are intertwined.

There are places  God wants to take you that will require you to unpack some things that you’ve carried around with you as well.  You simply cannot travel the heights with the Lord while hanging onto baggage. You’ll need to drop that unforgiveness. Lose the fear. Toss out the worry. Empty the guilt. While you’re at it, get rid of the lies: you know - the things you’ve believed about yourself that are so untrue for a child of the Most High God. 

Just as we are embarking on a New Year, you are embarking on a new day with the Lord. You may have heard His call but you’ve been living with a knotted fist and insisting on your rights to carry the junk with you everywhere you go. You think a new day would be great, but what about your stuff?

God speaks to our hearts doesn’t He?  Where you are today is not where I want to take you. I have wonderful plans for your life and for your new year. If you are willing you will walk in My freedom and your load will be light. But you’ll have to trust Me to prepare you for the trip.  Don’t look at what you are losing, look instead at what you are gaining. It’s no accident that you find yourself in a quandary between your desires and My plans.  A new year will come whether you want it or not. 2013 is quickly becoming a vapor. My plans are for now. My plans are for your good. My desires for you are better than your desires for yourself. Don’t walk away from the terminal of decision and count it too much to lose. Remember that I desire freedom for my children and that freedom is found only in relinquishing your life into My loving care. You don’t have the strength to break the bars of your own entanglements. You don’t have enough weaponry of flesh to insist to carry junk you don’t need with you. It’s not about fleshly or secular strength. It’s about becoming obedient to Me that you find true strength and real freedom.

Oh beloved, what wondrous love is this, that God won’t leave us as we are. He never quits planning our lives for His glory. Our best travel and our greatest freedom is when God is in charge of everything.  Let Him take you to the next level as you lay aside the things that want to keep you earthbound. Relinquish every entanglement and watch as you learn to enjoy freedom in Christ. Oh how He loves us! So much that He refuses to leave us as we are! A better life is ahead for you as you live in the light of His Word!

John 14:1 Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in Me.

Ephesians 4:21-23 Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from Him,  throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception.  Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes.

Matthew 6:21 for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you," says the LORD. "They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”

2 Corinthians 3:17 For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

Philippians 4:19 And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from His glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Are You Encountering Locked Doors?

I stayed up late by myself the other night. I discovered the Ya Ya Sisterhood movie was on so of course I had to watch it. One of my favorite scenes, though it is quite sorrowful, is where the wife tries to go in at night to see her husband and finds the door to his room locked.  Hope springs in my heart that she tries the door, every single time I watch it. And then sorrow leaps to my throat as I remember he has locked it.

Last night we had the three little visitors staying over with us. You may remember that this means we must well lock all exits so our wanderer, Caleb, will not leave for home if he wakes up in the middle of the night. 
Every night, even if Danny and I are alone, one or the other of us goes through the house to make sure all doors are locked. Sometimes I even lock our bedroom door when I go to bed. Even though I know I am safe with my husband I like knowing we are securely sequestered.

God speaks to my heart and maybe He is speaking to yours as well. Precious one. You have encountered locked doors you did not choose. They often appeared to be a source of sorrow and rejection to you. Yet when you look back over the years, you see that My hand was at every door.  Think back to the times when you wanted to go through a door and could not. Where would you be had I not stood in the way? For you see, I AM the doorkeeper. No other is able to open or close doors.  People will reject you, disappoint you and overlook you. Circumstances will seem to work against you, cause you pain and give you grief. But I AM in charge. I AM the one who walks through the hallways of your life and keeps it all secure. While you may feel you have been denied, it is actually that you have been saved from harm every single time. It’s true, not everyone is trustworthy and not everyone is walking in a Christlike way, but I AM the One who decides your fate every single time.  

Oh beloved, as you stand at the end of one year and the threshold of another, don’t you think it’s time to quit trying to jimmy the deadbolts of life?  Quit standing at the locked doors trying to force your way through. You may not be able to trust another single soul, but you can always trust God. He knows what you need, He knows what’s ahead and He knows that His will is your only open door. Walk freely into His blessings, His plans and His source of joy. You may not know right now the reason or purpose for the locks, but you are securely sequestered in God’s unfailing love and incredible care. He loves you and He’s for you so you can rest in His promises knowing that every door you need to go through will be wide open for you and no one, absolutely no one, will be able to shut you away from those open doors that are ordained by God Most High.

 Colossians 4:2 Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving; meanwhile praying also for us, that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ.

Revelation 3:8 I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name.

Psalm 37:23 The steps of a man are established by the Lord, And He delights in his way.

Psalm 138:8 The Lord will work out His plans for my life— for your faithful love, O Lord, endures forever.  Don’t abandon me, for you made me.

Psalm 57:2 I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills His purpose for me.

Friday, December 27, 2013

The New Year is Full of God's Hope

Nothing left under our tree but some loose dry needles. Since we got a live tree again this year it looks like we’re going to have to dispose of it pretty quickly.  Just a month ago it was green and the needles were supple. Freshly cut from the earth, it was gorgeous. Now it’s about done in. We can’t keep it over for another year. Without roots and soil and water it won’t make it. The evidence is there already. It’s done for.
This year has flown by. Just yesterday 2013 came upon us with such promise. If you’re like us, there were some great things that happened this year.  And if you’re like us, there were some not so great and unexpected things that happened.  When you open up a new year it holds lots of wonderful plans and hopes and dreams. But you can’t carry that calendar over for another year either. Everything written in it is done. That’s the past. It too must be thrown out with the Christmas tree.

We cannot do one thing about bringing a dead tree back to life.  We can’t do a thing about repurposing a calendar for another year. We can’t do anything about the outcome of the months we’ve spent in our lives.  Even though the tree has died, the year has dwindled and our plans have come and gone, not to be seen again, we can keep the good things for future reference. We can also look to the not so good events as our record of overcoming the odds, staying the course and celebrating the victories. We can pack away the ornaments from the boughs to place them on the new tree, we can catalog those good times, those precious moments to fondly remember in our hearts and we can open up a new calendar with high hopes and bright purpose.

I have a bad habit of keeping broken ornaments. I don’t know why. But God speaks to my heart and tells me to throw out the broken. Discard the past. I cannot relive it. I cannot bring it back to life. I cannot revive the year. It’s been spent. Whether I spent it right or misspent any of it is of no concern now.  God says look to the future.  Even the good things - and there are always good memories, great moments and fond reminiscences – have to be put in their place. We cannot live tomorrow fully if we’re holding onto the used up yesterdays. It just can’t be done.

Oh beloved, rejoice! A new year is approaching.  In a few short days it will be 2014 and the calendars will be brought out with clean spaces signifying the clean slate God gives you each and every day. For you who are dealing with loss, God says this could be the year of redemption, regeneration and renewal. For you who are walking through dark hours, this new year holds lots of hope for better days of health and happiness.  For all of you, it is time to throw out the old and take in the new. It’s a new day. It’s a great time to ask God to give you fresh plans and renewed purpose.

Regardless of your age, your abilities, your education or your pocketbook, God wants you.  He wants to take you into newness of life with Him. He wants you to believe Him. To receive His promises and to live in the light of His Word like never before. It’s a new day God has given you today and it’s a new year ahead to live it with gusto and victory. Your life is full of significance because God loves you and He’s for you!  No man can pronounce you done for. No system can pronounce you obsolete. No religion can say you’re not good enough. Because God says behold I AM doing a new thing with you beloved!

Blessings to you as you seek Him with all your heart for that's where we truly live and move and have our being whether it’s the end of a year or the beginning, He’s with you all the way.

Hebrews 6:18-19 so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil…

Acts17:28  For in Him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also His offspring. KJV

Isaiah 43:19 Behold, I will do something new, Now it will spring forth; Will you not be aware of it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, rivers in the desert.

I Timothy 4:10 With a view to this we toil and strive, [yes and] suffer reproach, because we have [fixed our] hope on the living God, Who is the Savior (Preserver, Maintainer, Deliverer) of all men, especially of those who believe (trust in, rely on, and adhere to Him). Amplified

Philippians 3:13-14 Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead,  I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Just Another Day?

How quickly the day passes. In spite of all the preparation and all the decoration, Christmas has no more hours in its day than any other day of the year. It is fleeting, transient and momentary. It may be that the decoration are up for a month or so, the packages circle the tree with festive gift wrap and candy, cookies, and other goodies are prepared for with tender loving care. But it goes by just as fast. No slowing down time for this day.

Every day passes so quickly.  Even the best of days melts into ordinary life. We want the best days to go on forever. We want Christmas to last – savoring each joy of packages opened and all the laughter and fun.  We want marriage to last, children to stay young, parents to remain with us and sickness to stay away. Yet each day has its own set of problems. We wake up each morning and don’t know what the day will be like. We could be facing a red letter day or it could be a white flag day. We don’t get to know ahead of time all the things we will go through in our days. But if we did, could we prepare? Would we do things differently? Would we savor the good days and wish they’d never end?

If you are experiencing red letter days, then precious one, enjoy them to the fullest. If you can only find red letter moments in a day, then by all means rejoice in them. Every day is a gift for you, and the good days are especially important to enjoy, to remember and to give thanks for.

If you are experiencing white flag days, then precious one, know that white flag days don’t last forever. There is an end to every struggle, every trial and every problem.  Hardships don’t last forever and neither do hard days, hard weeks or hard times. If you are there, then hold onto God and let Him make you an overcomer through it all.

Aren’t we blessed to know that the same Jesus who was named Immanuel, God is with us, remains with you and I all through the years. Every day is made special by His presence. Every day is a teachable day because God is with us. Every day is worth enjoying because God created it and allowed us to be participants in these 24 hours.  Don’t fret over the day not lasting, rather rejoice over the day having been here.

Give each day your very best attention. Put Christ first, give Him the authority to run your schedule, set your time clock and work your hours.  Rejoice in each and every one of the days you have. Forgive everything that crosses your path. Drop everything that seeks to make your days less than wonderful. You cannot make a day better by concentrating only on the hardness or the pain. This day, just like Christmas, will never come again. There may be other Christmases, there may not. But this day is the day you have and it’s yours to give God the glory and live in the light of His Word.

Oh beloved, thank the Lord for your day. Thank Him for the opportunities He is going to allow you to have. Those opportunities may seem minor to you, but a kind word, a forgiving heart, and a helping hand are marvelous things in the grasp of the Holy Spirit. God knows your days get all jumbled together and He is personally acquainted with all the troubles, rejections, humiliations, problems and fears that you are facing. But because of Christ and His unspeakable gift, you can go through each day with purpose and faith. Don’t focus solely on the problems, but focus instead on the Word of God. You are His blessing to the world and there are wonderful delights awaiting you on this day. It’s not just the day after Christmas, it’s the first day of the rest of your life! Enjoy, receive, remain and give thanks!

God loves you and He’s for you and that’s why you can savor the minutes and the hours of this day and live it for Him. That’s a day with no regrets, living in the light of His glory and grace.

Psalm 118:24 This is the day which the Lord has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Psalm 5:3 In the morning, O LORD, You will hear my voice; In the morning I will order my prayer to You and eagerly watch.

Hebrews 13:15-16  Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name. And do not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.

James 4:14 Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.

Matthew 6:34 So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Psalm 145:2 Every day I will bless You, And I will praise Your name forever and ever.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas Beloved!

Merry Christmas! Such precious words. Such a miracle message. Such a joy and delight. Christmas. How very blessed we are to be able to celebrate a holiday with the One who has given us life and breath and opportunities.  This babe in a manger is no fictitious childhood story that must eventually be outgrown and put away.  His glory does not tarnish. His value does not lessen. He remains the same yesterday, today and forever.  While much about the holidays celebrated is so much pomp and circumstance, storybook adventures and wives’ tales, this message is eternal. This King of Kings is faithful and true.

You may be thinking as you rise early this morning that you left something out of your plans. You forgot a gift, you didn’t remember the cranberries, you don’t have enough cola or punch.  You may be wishing you could undo an error, repair a rejection, restore a friendship or regain a trust.  You may be missing a loved one, longing for a kind touch or wishing you could do things differently.  You might wonder if it will ever be perfect, if the gifts will fit or if anyone will care.  Right about now you may be coming face to face with the fact that you’re not perfect, people aren’t perfect and life is not perfect.

Look beyond all that. Look once more at the manger, the cross, the tomb and the sky. The Light of the World has arrived! The Savior of the nations has been here! The tomb where all your mistakes, mishaps and missteps have been laid to rest is empty! And the sky, where your hope of glory awaits is full of promise, full of mercy, full of grace. Keep watching the horizon, keep searching for His return for He is coming again!

Oh beloved, Jesus is the reason for the season to be sure. But it’s more than that!  He’s the reason you live and move and have your being. You are no accident, this day is not an error and your life is no mistake. You are waking up to the most wonderful day of your year. You are alive and you are capable of taking in His Truth and living out His purpose.  Rejoice in all you are In Him! He is the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End, the Prince of your peace, the Counselor with all your answers and the Majestic One Who is praying for you day and night at the Father’s Right Hand.

Quickly, before others get up and the day gets covered in wrapping paper, ribbons and too much food. Slip into the Father’s waiting arms and read His book of love! Every wonderful Truth is your gift from Him to you.  He is everything He says He is. He does everything He says He will do. Open all the gifts, don’t leave one unopened. Rest in His care, delight in His presence, grow in His grace, feast on His manna and walk in His anointing.

Merry Christmas beloved of God. True happiness is found in Him. Overcoming life is met in Him. Purpose and victory, honor and commitment are abounding through Him. He loves you and He’s for you and those gifts cannot be taken from you  all the days of your life.

Colossians 2:9-10 For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body. So you also are complete through your union with Christ, who is the head over every ruler and authority.

Ephesians 1:6-8  So we praise God for the glorious grace He has poured out on us who belong to His dear Son. He is so rich in kindness and grace that He purchased our freedom with the blood of His Son and forgave our sins.  He has showered His kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding.

1 Corinthians 1:7 Now you have every spiritual gift you need as you eagerly wait for the return of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Habakkuk 3:18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!

1 John 5:20 And we know that the Son of God has come, and He has given us understanding so that we can know the true God. And now we live in fellowship with the true God because we live in fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ. He is the only true God, and He is eternal life.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

We are Fantastically Privileged Participants

“And Mary pondered all these things in her heart.”

Knowing about the process of pregnancy and birth, I realize that Mary probably felt some pangs of preparation while riding that donkey through the countryside. She was uncomfortable and ready to rest. And being the mother of children I love more than my own life, I also know that my own children were worth being born in the most sterile conditions under the most favorable situations.  Also knowing that things don’t turn out quite like you want them to, one of mine was almost born in the car.

This was no ordinary child who was making his appearance on that holy day.  He was a King, destined to rule the earth. He deserved a king’s birth. Weren’t they making way for God Himself? The Son of the King of Glory, the Lord of heaven and earth, the Creator of All. Special attendants, private room and no money spared in the delivery.

But wait, this King was going to be born in obscurity as his mother grabbed handfuls of hay to ease her pain and probably grabbed her husband’s hand as well.  No mention of any attendants at all. Joseph didn’t step up to the owner of the inn and say, “Hold on buddy. Do you know who we are? And you’re just an innkeeper.”

Humanity often wants its rights. We want our positions acknowledged. We want people to hearken to our every need. We are easily moved by the glorious and yet we pout at the humble situations we often find ourselves in.  

Jesus came to fulfill His position. But remember, His position to fulfill included hanging on a cross. A most un-glorious death kept for thieves and ne’er do wells. He had no earthly goods and when He came to the world He was born in a manger among cattle and sheep. He continued in the world and the Word tells us, “the son of man has nowhere to lay his head” meaning He didn’t have a home to call His own. Not here. And then after His death, while He was redeeming the world and making a way for us all to be reconciled to Him His body was placed in a borrowed tomb.  

Mary could have reminded people all the time of her great position and condition. The angel had spoken to her and explained her great calling. But “she pondered all these things in her heart”. What a lesson for us who are called of God. And if we are born again, we are all called. There is purpose and destiny to fulfill in our lives because we belong to Him. We could arrive on the scene and sing opera with the best of them, “Me. Me. Me.”  We could talk about our blood line, our positions, our assets, our ancestors, our talents, and our rights.  We could remind others everyday just how important we are.

But we’re not. We’re simply fantastically privileged participants in the greatest biography ever written. We are ne’er do wells who got called in to become more than we ever could be on our own. And as we seek to fulfill this destiny that the Lord has called us to, we are simply meant to reflect His glory. Just as the shepherds in that dark field at night reflected the glory that shone round about, we too are simply the backdrop for the King.

Oh beloved, it’s Christmas Eve.  With all its greatness and with all your troubles, trials and disappointments, it could be less than wonderful. Except that you are destined to praise the One who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. You are chosen, you are blessed, you are redeemed. God did it all for love. God called you to Himself because He loved you.  He humbled Himself and became an earthly man for you. He continued His path to death on a cross for you. He rose again so that you too can rise to newness of life.  You are a magnificent display of His glory and grace! As you prepare the next day’s events, with pomp and circumstance, good food and lots of laughter, don’t forget to ponder all these things in your heart and rejoice and be exceedingly glad! This holy time is the best time to lay aside your worries and fears. He has it all covered for you beloved. He has it all worked out. He hasn’t forgotten or forsaken you. Pick up the King’s call and worship Him in the manger, worship Him at the cross and worship Him because He lives again. He’s coming back for you beloved, and He won’t return as a babe in a manger, but as a Mighty King to swoop you into His arms and carry you away to glory!

God loves you and He’s for you and that’s something that will carry you through all the days of your life, but especially now at Christmas as you remember the wonder of His extraordinary, out of this world gift of love, grace, peace and mercy just for you!

Psalm 95:6-7 Come, let us worship and bow down. Let us kneel before the Lord our maker, for He is our God. We are the people He watches over, the flock under His care.

Matthew 2:11 They entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped Him….

Mark 10:45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give His life as a ransom for many.

I Peter 5:6-7 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.

Psalm 70:4 Let all who seek You rejoice and be glad in You; And let those who love Your salvation say continually, “Let God be magnified.”

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Wise Men Traveled from Afar and Your Walk of Faith will Take a While

It’s Monday and the special day is nearly upon us. Not much time left to get things done. So much preparation and then the day gets here before you know it. Our pastor was talking about the wise men who came to see the baby Jesus. We see the entire nativity story as one day’s events. But the story actually was spread out over a while. The fact that the wise men came “from afar” lets us know that they had to travel a distance to get there.  It may have taken days or even weeks to arrive. Even if they traveled on camels it would take a while.  They had to find shelter along the way, they had to avoid enemies and dangerous places.  They had to plan the trip and hope for good weather and might have even encountered sandstorms or worse.

Everything worthwhile takes planning and takes a while. Not many great things are done in a hurry or with haste. Our walk of faith is like the trip of the wise men. We are born again of incorruptible seed. But we must grow into Christ-likeness. We learn the Word, we go through things, we become overcomers and we grow in grace and knowledge of the Lord.  Experience teaches us that Christ is all we need. Time teaches us that God is faithful. Study teaches us what the Word says, but the trip we take in the flesh seals the facts for us. We walk out our walk of faith and it takes a while. To become wise men and women of God will take our entire life.

God knows your hearts’ desires. He knows that you want things to be just right. He also knows that you want to hurry things along, including your faith.  It often seems, doesn’t it, that just as you feel you have arrived at the pinnacle of your faith walk, another mountain comes upon the scene and you must make it over. You want to “arrive” just as the wise men did. You want to sit at Jesus’ feet and let the world go by. But it takes time to live this life. It’s a trip worth taking, if you remember that your arrival, your final destiny, is to be with Jesus in heaven forever. Until then, this is a learning experience that takes time and effort and planning. There will be mistakes along the way and perils and troubles and trials. There will be times when the devil will work against you. Other times your flesh will try to reign supreme. And there’s always other people who disappoint, discourage, disagree and pronounce untruths on your life. Friends walk away, loved ones quit loving and life gets rough. Hard times will make you want to turn back, but God is with you, guiding, protecting, interceding and caring for you all the way.

Oh beloved, rejoice in this most blessed season while there is time. You are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to be all He wants you to be, to go where He wants you to go and to be a living, visible sign that God has a plan for everyone’s life. You may feel unworthy, unprepared and undone much of the time along the way. But each and every mountain you face or valley you make it through is preparation for becoming more like Christ.  The Holy Spirit is guiding you, even in the hard times, for you have a destination just as the wise men all those years ago. Your destination is to live in heaven with Jesus forever. This is no demotion, this is your promotion.  So enjoy the trip, take plenty of the Word with you, along with peace, comfort, joy, abiding faith and enduring love.

Just as those wise men needed their travel needs to be met, you will need the whole council of God’s Word to make it, but beloved you are going to make it, because God loves you and He’s for you.  Because God’s plan for your life is surrounded and filled with His love and His care, you are an overcomer who will arrive at every checkpoint of faith, growing into His image on every turn. Keep traveling, keep walking and keep looking to Jesus, who is the author and finisher of your faith.

1 John 4:17 And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face Him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world.

Colossians 3:10 Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like Him.

John 16:33 I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.

Philippians 2:13 For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases Him.

2 Peter 1:3 seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.

1 John 3:2 Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

You Never Have to Walk in Darkness About Anything

Heavy rains hit our area the last two days. This caused our electricity to flicker and finally it was out for a few minutes. When it came back on I had to reset the clock on the range and restart the computer. It was after getting all the other things checked on that I noticed the lowest strand of Christmas tree lights was out. Darkness was all around the bottom of the tree. No ornaments or decorations showed up because no light was shining in those branches. The clock and the computer were an easy fix, but the getting the lights to shine again required more work.

Christmas lights are a great reminder that Jesus is the Light of the World. The word tells us that if we are walking in the light of Jesus we will never have to walk in darkness again.  Simply put that means we can make good decisions based on God’s love and His will.  We won’t have to wonder what to do; we won’t have to feel around in the dark for answers.  We will know because we will look to His Word knowing that He does exactly what He says he will do.

Often we find ourselves caught in the dark and we don’t know where to go or how to move. We might wonder what we should do in a particular situation. We might even wonder how we should celebrate the holidays, respond to criticism, react to rejection or many other things. 

But we don’t have to walk in the dark. We are born again believers who have the Holy Spirit living inside of us. He is our internal light and He always points us to the right decisions.  We don’t have to wonder what to do. When we look at the council of His Word and we follow the light of His presence we are in turn shining His light for others to see. Our enlightened minds and hearts shine out of us like a beacon or like a Christmas tree overloaded with lights. People are drawn like moths to a flame. And we too are drawn, for the Light has dawned in our hearts. 

In the hurry and scurry of the holiday season, if we’re not careful, our light will dim or go out. It’s easy to forget about the reason for the Season and get frustrated in the slow line of traffic or disappointment in the store as we can’t find that perfect gift. You may be experiencing the gloom of hurt, feeling down, or depressed emotions this holiday season. You might even find the holidays a bitter experience as you struggle with turbulent relationships, painful memories, or stressful situations. Caught up in the momentary afflictions, we have a hard time showing Jesus to the world. And yet we are meant to spread the light.

Oh beloved, rejoice in the Light of the World! Rejoice that this light is your reason for celebration, your answer to tribulation, your foundation for abiding joy and your chance to share the Gospel. You are in the Light by divine appropriation. You don’t have to pay for it, you don’t have to work it up, you just abide in Him.  Won’t you take a moment this morning and ask the Lord what He would have you do to spread the Light of Jesus this season? This is an opportune time to shine His light to everyone, whether it’s a kind word or the gift of forgiveness or giving of yourself in some way.  You are His Light and you are destined to live in His favor and blessings. Check a moment to see if you’ve let the light dim and take that to Him. He loves you and He’s for you and that’s why He’s chosen you to plug into Him and be a beacon of Love for the world to see, not just at Christmas but every day of the year.

John 8:12 Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life

I John 1:5 This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.

1 Thessalonians 5:8 But let us who live in the light be clearheaded, protected by the armor of faith and love, and wearing as our helmet the confidence of our salvation.

2 Corinthians 4:6 For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ.

Psalm 96:2 Sing to the Lord; praise His name. Each day proclaim the good news that He saves.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Stormy Weather No Problem for Jesus

You will probably receive two devotionals on Sunday. (Saturday's devo escaped my plans to put it on the blog!)

Here is Saturday's:

Can you believe this weather? This is officially the first day of winter and it’s 70 degrees at my house where and in just a few days we’ll celebrate the birth of Christ. There was thunder and lightning last night with at least one tornado warning in the area. Today is projected to be stormy as well.  People want to panic because they don’t have everything done and it’s the last Saturday before Christmas.
I am thinking of the Lord and His disciples in the boat during the storm. They were panicked. They were in the presence of God and yet when the storm arose they lost it. I see them scurrying around, batting down the hatches, pulling in the sails and wondering if they would even survive. They were upset that Jesus slept while they prepared and worried and planned their own demise.

The facts of their situation included their knowledge of storms. That’s about all they allowed themselves to think about. They were so caught up in the momentary problem that they couldn’t see anything else. They had walked with Jesus everywhere and had seen Him perform miracle after miracle and yet in their own stormy situation they couldn’t think straight.

Would they have been happier if Jesus had jumped up in a panic with them? Would they have been glad that He was helping prepare for the end? Of course not. They wanted Jesus to do something and He didn’t seem to be doing anything but sleep!

And we are there. At least some of us are. We’re in a boat of our own making, in the storm of our life and water is lapping at our throats. We’re tossed in the sea of troubles when we should be resting in His promises. But we think He’s sleeping. We think He doesn’t know we don’t have enough time, enough money, or enough presence of mind to make it. We’re in the storm of our life and we know we’re going to drown. Where is God when we need Him? It’s only a few days until we celebrate His birthday yet we don’t feel His presence at all. We’re in a panic. We don’t know what to do first or which way to go but this storm in our life is going to do us in.

Oh beloved, God knows what the weather is like at your house and in your heart. He knows the trouble you are facing. He knows it’s only a few days until everything is supposed to be just perfect and yet He cannot be found in your panic. It’s too loud. It’s deafening and the roar will only get louder…until you come and sit at His feet. He promises, whether it’s Christmas or not, to still the storm or get you through it. It’s not what He does that makes the difference nearly as much as simply His presence. No more babe in the manger, you are protected by the King of Kings! No more a crucified Christ, you are watched over by the Risen Lord! No more vacated Savior, you have the Holy Spirit residing in you! He’s not ignoring your storm, He’s making all things new for you. He’s not aloof, He’s living proof! He’s not away, He’s holding the enemy at bay. All the hopes and fears of all your years are satisfied in Christ.

Quit watching the storm and look instead to the wonderful reminders of God’s glory and grace all around you! Open up the Book of Books and read about you, your situation and your Savior. He loves you and He’s for you and that’s why you can be assured He will get you through this storm and safely to shore to celebrate with Him forever!

Luke 8:24-25 The disciples went and woke Him up, shouting, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!” When Jesus woke up, He rebuked the wind and the raging waves. Suddenly the storm stopped and all was calm. Then He asked them, “Where is your faith?”

Psalm 31:22 In panic I cried out, “I am cut off from the Lord!” But You heard my cry for mercy and answered my call for help.

Psalm 121:4 Indeed, He who watches over Israel never slumbers or sleeps.

Psalm 29:10-11 The Lord sat as King at the flood; Yes, the Lord sits as King forever. The Lord will give strength to His people; The Lord will bless His people with peace.

Psalm 27:5 For in the day of trouble He will conceal me in His tabernacle; In the secret place of His tent He will hide me; He will lift me up on a rock.