Thursday, December 28, 2017

Isolation

O our God, will You not judge them? For we have no power against this great multitude that is coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are upon You.” (2 Chronicles 20:12)
 Many times we will be up against a wall in life, especially as believers. We face adversity daily and the world will NOT understand. The closer we get to the Lord and His will in life, the more challenges we will face. While we all have heard it said that "What God has for me is for me", when it comes to being isolated in that endeavor it can be very lonely and challenging.

Where is our faith today? Is it in God or man? Whom will we lean upon? We cannot do both and succeed. Our eyes must be upon the Lord. Prayer is not a last resort, but first priority. Is being isolated from the world such a bad thing after all?

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Anticipation

Anticipation can be exciting and yet painful. When that day or that time comes, what will it be like? Will it be as I expect? Will it be different? How will I and others react when reality strikes? How will it change me . . . others? What will come next?

All questions we face when awaiting an event, an appointment, a promise, the unknown. I wonder what was going through Mary and Joseph's minds that night?

Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

  

Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold,[b an angel of the Lord stood  before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”
 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:
“Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”
 So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.”  
 And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger.  Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child.  And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds.    But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them. (Luke 2:4-20)

Do I have the faith to trust God through it all as Mary and Joseph did?

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Don't Miss the Savior

Imagine being a wife and mom anticipating your best birthday party ever . . . turning the big 4-0! There will be cake, gifts, decorations, etc. Yet the cake has someone else's name on it. . . . your husband's! The gifts have his name on them as well and not yours. Now that you look a bit closer at the decorations, they are for him as well. . . . all about sports . . . his team not yours! Those who popped up and yelled, "surprise!" aren't even your friends, but his!!!

Wait a minute! Your big celebration and the cake, the gifts, the decorations, the friends . . . all about him and not you? Huh???? Now we know how Jesus might feel . . . not just on CHRISTmas but every week when we go to His house to worship Him and we expect to be entertained!

Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth." The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When He comes, He will tell us all things.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am He.”(John 4:21-26)
The Samaritan woman nearly missed the Savior. Let's not miss Him this Season of CHRISTmas!


Monday, December 18, 2017

Ready for CHRISTmas Yet?

The tree . . . the "perfect" tree . . . the lights in just the right spots and just the right amount of "twinkle" . . . .just the right amount of holly or garland trim bending in the right spots and the red bows in the exact measured areas . . . ready for Christmas 🎄 . . .  or CHRISTmas?

Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:18-21)

Rather than focusing on winning the neighborhood decorating contest or impressing the relatives with our grand decorations, perhaps we can say "welcome" to the Savior with our "party decor". Instead of seeking Black Friday savings we may refocus our attention or the suffering Savior Who saved us on the cross on the original Black Friday! No matter how many Happy Holidays or Season's Greetings I might hear, I will always respond with an emphatic,
 "Merry CHRISTmas!"

Friday, December 15, 2017

Not Now . . . No Room . . . No Time

I just can't find the room. I can't fit it in to my schedule. I don't have time for it.  There are just no "extras" at this time. No time, no space, no money . . .I am simply too busy!   Well, maybe I can find just a little time . . . a few minutes . . . an extra space . . .  a couple of dollars . . .  as long as it doesn't make me feel too uncomfortable or make me change my too plans too much.

Have you used any of these excuses for people in need lately? I believe we all have if not simply in our thought process. I know I am guilty of being a bit too selfish, at least at first glance until the Holy Spirit (or my wife) convicts me otherwise! 😔

So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. (Luke 2:6-7)
We often think of the innkeeper as an evil old man with no heart for anyone, much less a poor, cold, helpless couple and a soon to be born baby. But as I examine my life, I see it in perspective. At least he was honest. He didn't fake it. Maybe he went out of his way to set Mary and Joseph up in the "stable" and did all he could. After all, he couldn't put the other guests out!

Do I do all I can for Christ and others? Can I do better than the innkeeper? Would I give up my own "room" or safe place and stay "outside of my comfort zone"?  After all, I know a bit more of the story than the innkeeper did at the time. Do I see a couple in need, or a baby crying for help or a teen desperately seeking a safe place to hang out or talk?

Rather, do I say to myself; " There is NO ROOM for that in my life right now!"


Thursday, December 14, 2017

Twelve Days or Twelve Months?

Ahhh . . . the Twelve Days of CHRISTmas; widely celebrated from December 25-January 6. While we know the "three wise men" took over a year or two to reach the baby Jesus, now a small child (Matthew 2:16) between birth and two years old, traditional churches still celebrate these "twelve days". Still looking for that "partridge in a pear tree" by the way, but I digress!

However one celebrates the HOLYday Season, I, for one want to try this year to keep CHRIST in CHRISTmas for twelve months! I wonder how drastically my life would be changed and perhaps the life of others? What if I focused on the King of kings all year, every month, each day? What if I shared His love daily and offered Him myself every day? What if everyday I focused on giving and not getting?

Ok, I am officially challenged! What about you? Let's echo Mary's words . . .
                   And Mary said: “My soul magnifies the Lord,And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant; For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed. For He who is mighty has done great things for me, And holy is His name. (Luke 1:46-49)



Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Embracing Peace

Silent night . . . Holy night?  Sleep in heavenly peace? Really . . . at this time of year?

Facing stress is expected. Being stressed is totally different! Being stressed and being at peace are two different paradigms. There will always be gifts that are not purchased, decorations forgotten, and recipes misplaced or ingredients missing from the pantry. There can still be peace when we know Peace!

 Focusing on the Prince of Peace and HIS-story may help us all to be more at peace and less stress as the 25th approaches . . . Have we really embraced Him?

For unto us a Child is born,

Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Of the increase of His government and peace

There will be no end,
Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,
To order it and establish it with judgment and justice
From that time forward, even forever.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this. (Isaiah 9:6-7)


Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Joy . . . In the Sacrifice . . . . In the Giving!

"Joy to the World!" "The Lord has come!"

So why are we not that excited about this? Why are we so tied up in shopping, decorating, cooking and planning this event and that trip, etc? Where is the joy directed and why?

Listen to some of Jesus' last words as He prayed to His Father just before going to the cross:
“These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. (John 15:11-13)
Do we find JOY in sacrificially GIVING? Laying aside our desires for the needs of others is basic CHRISTian living. I realize that many GIVE today. I also realize that many of us GIVE out of  obligation and obedience . . . with an intent to be rewarded somehow, someway, somewhere along the line.

Jesus calls us to lay aside our desires for others as a lifestyle. It should not come as an after though or with strings  attached. This not only brings God JOY, but it brings JOY to those whom we serve and to those serving!

Let's bring JOY TO THE WORLD this season!





Monday, December 11, 2017

"The most wonderful time of the year"?

Celebrating the reality of CHRISTmas is far different from the fantasy CHRISTmas!  Many of us suffer from a variety of issues during this time of year; disfunctional families, separation from relatives and friends, illness, deaths, etc. It is not always the "most wonderful time of the year"!

Yet as believers, we can still celebrate the reality of Christ's love. Is that not what CHRISTmas is anyway? It's more about the REASON than the SEASON anyway! It is not the to-do list or even the gift list. It is about the GIFT! The love story between God and me is enough to make me say "Merry CHRISTmas to all and to treat them with His love, not my frustrations or shortcomings.

LOVE must be #1 on my list of to-dos. In reality, it is THE REASON!

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. (1 John 4:7-11)

Friday, December 8, 2017

Anticipating Messiah

Hope . . . A HUNGER and ANTICIPATION of Messiah. Think back to when we were really hungry . . . I mean fasting for days and looking forward to that all-you-can-eat buffet HUNGRY!

What are our "hopes" for CHRISTmas? If we prioritize our plans to what is most important to us, like relaxation, family time, great memories and not blowing the budget simply to make others happy for a moment or two, then our "hopes" may be fulfilled in what is worth remembering in years to come!

What do we want to remember; the ring, the toys, the decorations, the trip, or the time spent with family and friends centered around the love of Christ . . . our real "Hope". If we hunger badly enough for Him, then we will meet that hunger!
Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”(Luke 2:8-12)


Hope fulfilled. Anticipation met. A Savior has been born . . . He has been crucified and buried . . . Yet He rose from the dead to PRESENT each of us with an opportunity to have an eternal relationship with Him. This is HOPE .  . . . This is CHRISTmas! May we HUNGER and ANTICIPATE Him this season!!!

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Fear or Faith?

Fear or Faith????? Strong fears can lead to major dangers and downfalls while strong faith can lead to major and lasting victories. Consider King Herod . . . a descendent of Esau, an Edomite who was raised as a Jew and appointed "King of the Jews" by the Roman Senate around 40 B.C. Very insecure and fearful of losing his throne to a little baby . . . a BABY . . . he had all children two years and younger put to death in the vicinity of Bethlehem when he heard of a baby's birth! This little one threatened this mighty king! Just the thought of losing his throne in years to come changed HIStory. Yet the faith of a humble couple, Joseph and Mary, also changed HIStory, but for good!
Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived by the wise men, was exceedingly angry; and he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying: “A voice was heard in Ramah, Lamentation, weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, Refusing to be comforted, Because they are no more.” (Matthew 2:16-18)
Will we allow fear to cause us to choose wrongly or we call upon our faith to allow God to work in and through us?

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Stay in Touch!

Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him.” When he arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt, and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, “Out of Egypt I called My Son.”(Matthew 2:13-15)
Stay in touch with God. It just may save your life. Just remember Joseph and Mary and little baby Jesus! Had Joseph not had the intimate and no doubt 24/7 relationship with the Father, he would have not received the message nor trusted the angel when he said:"flee to Egypt". Again, Joseph immediately did as he was told. There was no time for debate. There was no time to check Weather Channel or to Google the traffic in the area. It was leave or have your Son killed! Like Abraham, Moses, Mary and others, Joseph knew he heard from God and he swiftly obeyed. Oh, if only you and I were so tuned in to God and were so quick to obey!

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Blind Faith or Solid Faith?

Many say we CHRIST followers live by "blind faith". While it is true we walk by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7), we don't simply walk into situations without knowledge or plans. You see, for the mature believer, this "faith" is a "solid faith", based upon facts, eyewitness accounts, and experience! It is also a call to obedience and not always what makes sense to the naked eye.
Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.” Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name Jesus.(Matthew 1:18-25)
As we recall the CHRISTmas story, we do not hear a lot about Joseph. We hear of Mary, the angels, the shepherds, the travelers from the East, and even Herod. Joseph "plays the background". However, without his faith and obedience in a God he trusted and a plan that did not make sense, where would we be today? How would things have changed? Let's be challenged to live by a solid and proven faith . . . in the One Who came as an innocent baby, was put to a cruel and horrible death, yet was raised up from the grave to save our very souls. My faith says He is coming back to rescue those who place their faith in Him and His plan.
Where is YOUR faith?

Monday, December 4, 2017

All I Want for CHRISTmas . . .

So, have you made your CHRISTmas list yet? Wrote it down, copied it, sent it off to Santa? Perhaps you may have even hinted a bit to others what may be on that list? As much fun as it is to gather together an "All I Want for CHRISTmas" list, as believers we must trust God with what knows is really best.
But as it is written: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man. The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. (1 Corinthians 2:9-12)
After serving in New Orleans for nearly ten years, Columbia, SC the summer of 2017, and most recently the U.S. Island of Puerto Rico, I have been humbled enough times to believe that I have way too much. Even when I believe I am in need, it in no way compares to the real needs of folks suffering from natural disasters, terminal illnesses, etc. Most things on my list are "wants", not needs! I have been convicted that in my biggest "need", I can still sacrifice for others who need things more! What I am really praying for is more trust in God to change my heart and mind to be more like His!

Friday, December 1, 2017

Alone but not Alone

You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier. And also if anyone competes in athletics, he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. The hardworking farmer must be first to partake of the crops. Consider what I say, and may the Lord give you understanding in all things.(2 Timothy 2:3-7)
As believers in this ever changing and compromising world, we must remain consistent and constant in the Word. As a soldier remains faithful to his leader and fellow soldiers despite the challenges, we too must persevere. Many times the strength must come from within . . . from the Holy Spirit. There may not be much encouragement from those around us! As Peter fell in his own strength, we too will fall unless we totally depend upon the Lord (Ephesians 6:10). Expect challenges. Don't be surprised when confrontation occurs. Yet stand . . .(Romans 8:37)

Just so You Know

Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign:  Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear  a Son, and shall call His name  Immanuel. (Is...