Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Christmas Joy

Christmas Joy
As we light our pink candles this week, we recall the joy we have because of our Savior coming! The biggest example in the Christmas story of joy is the shepherds who expressed utter joy when they saw the Savior. These men worked at the bottom of society in a less than ideal job, yet they returned from seeing the Savior to their jobs praising and glorifying Him! I don't think it was coincidence that God choose these lowly shepherds to share the good news with. 

I think it is so hard for us to express joy at times, especially in the privileged lives we live. In my mind, it is easier to express joy when you go from having nothing to everything, than it is if you have a great life and comfortable living to everything. You can have all the joy in the world about Christ's coming, but unless you actually express it and show people you have it, you are not being a message that Christ is enough for you. Why in the world wouldn't be joyful about this Savior Who came to take away our sin in the past, present and future!? 

Jesus did everything with joy. He served His Father. He served others. Yet He endured the most brutal punishment for us, giving us a new identity in Him. We have so much to rejoice about. 
Be that joyful light to others as you go about this busy season. From the smile on your face to the "post" button on facebook. Share the joy and let others know that you are happy because a Savior has changed your identity forever.  

The shepherds knew. This Savior changed everything for them, despite their living situation. They had such joy and shared it with everyone. Share your joy! You have much to be joyful about!

Luke 2: 8-20
"That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”
Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in highest heaven,
    and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”
When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them."

Day 71: Being Alert

Day 71
Leviticus 14, Matthew 25:1-30

There are many lessons to be taken from our reading today. One theme that stands out to me is being alert and aware at all times the placement of your heart and life. I think oftentimes we can lose sight of our true purpose on this earth and start looking to things of this earth to satisfy us and keep us happy. These things can cause us to lose control of ourselves and our hearts' desires.

Leviticus is one book I honestly have a hard time getting through. In fact, when I do a yearly plan in reading through the Word, I tend to stall there and throw in the towel. However, I've learned to look at the processes of these cleansings and atonings and seen how they can tie into our hearts in today's world.

Today, we read about how skin diseases and mildew can spread and cause such a pain for the one dealing with it. I think this can surely apply to the pain we go through when we allow something other than God to infect our lives. We can have a sense of loss or as if "something is missing" after awhile. There are many things we can allow to spread through our hearts - relationships, achievements, etc. But unless it is God, we will be left disappointed after awhile, every time.

The same is true when it comes to being alert for His coming. We don't know when Christ is coming back and we don't know how long we'll have to wait, but we need to be ready. We need to have our hearts in the right place and have a relationship with Him that is more than knowing about Him, but actually knowing Him and His will and ways. We read how some of the bridesmaids failed to be ready for when the bridegroom came to take them to the feast, and missed it because they did not have enough oil for their lamps. This is true for us today when we are not actively seeking God in our everyday lives. We don't want to miss Him by not having our hearts and minds prepared.

We also need to be alert when it comes to our gifts and talents. God provides us with resources that He wants us to use to invest in Him Kingdom. When we use our gifts on other things or give the glory to ourselves, we have squandered them. One of the quotes by John Piper I love (it hangs in our living room) is this:
"Only one life twill soon be past. Only what's done for Christ will last."
We can use our skills on things for ourselves, but the legacy in those won't last as long as if we were to use them to further God's Kingdom. God wants more for us when He grants us resources. He doesn't want us to bury them or use them foolishly. He wants us to take our gifts and invest them in the lives of others so they are moved by Him through you to want to know more.

One example of this was when I was learning how to play the guitar. It seemed to come naturally to me, and I downplayed it. I tend to hate a spotlight and I hate being in front of people, but I felt convicted to start playing on the praise team, and God blessed it. Now, the spotlight doesn't bother me, because it isn't about me when I am up there. If people are looking at me, that is their heart that needs to be realigned, and realizing that takes away the fear. I do it because God has blessed me with this gift and to leave a vacant spot of service that I can fill in His church is like the foolish servant in this reading.
The same goes for any role you are good at that God needs filled. Invest wisely and be alert as to what you can do for Him, whether it's greeting at a church door or mentoring a younger generation to have a fire for the Lord.

We need to be alert to our hearts and lives when it comes to making God a priority. Don't allow things that are not Christ to contaminate your lives. It is so easy to get caught up in what makes you happy rather than what keeps you holy. Be alert to His coming again. Don't miss it because you weren't prepared in your heart and mind. Be alert with the gifts and talents He has given to you and don't squander them for your own glory or keep them hidden when a vacant spot is waiting for you. You have no idea how many lives you can reach for Christ if you just jump in and give Him the glory.
Be alert.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Christmas Peace

Peace. Peace and quiet...boy, would that be something to be treasured as a working mom with a two year old. Not to mention the working part is the role of a church secretary, so...busy, busy...always something to do...
Then there's the "extracurriculars". Meetings, missions, studies, praise band on occasion. Peace can be very hard to come by at times.
But, the night I experienced the greatest amount and most powerful peace, was also one that was filled with chaos and heavy unknowns. A night that God took the reigns from me and showed me how in control He is of my life, as doctors rushed around, warning me of the "risks", the "unknowns", and the "rarities" of my case, as they prepped me for emergency open-heart surgery.
In that time, I felt so stilled by God's hand. I knew that regardless of the outcome, I was going to be ok. I was actually to a point of being ok, even if I hadn't made it...and I had my husband in the room, and a newborn baby somewhere with relatives. That, is peace.
The night Christ was born, we received a gift that nothing under a tree could touch. When Christ died on a tree for us, we received something so powerful, that anything under a tree would be put to shame and never come close to this most prized gift. Peace that surpasses understanding was one of the things we received.
Because of Christ, we can stand confidently, face to face with the troubles of this world and know we will be ok. Because of Christ, we have the peace that reconciled us to God and took the punishment of the sins we take for granted. Because of Christ, I don't need to worry till my last breath about what will happen.
When we can teach ourselves to be still before God on a daily basis and allow Him to take hold of our lives and grant us remarkable sightings into His will and way, we can honestly enjoy the peace that will overcome the obstacles of the day. It is so easy to miss out because of the busy, busy, busy. Christmas is a prime time for busy, (especially if you work in a church), but coming quietly before God regularly, will allow you to come boldly before your problems and experience peace in the midst of them. Will they go away? No, but you will handle them and look at them in a different light.
"You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in You." -Isaiah 26:3