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Monday, December 10, 2012

Advent Week 3- JOY

 "When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh." Matthew 2:10-11
 
All the songs say it. We should be jolly and joyful at Christmastime. Joy to the World, Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee, Have a Holly Jolly Christmas, etc. So, why do I often not feel so jolly this time of year? What steals my joy? Life is often a battle for real joy. Life is hard and joy is, at least for me, not a normal reaction to stress and boy is there a lot of stress during the holidays.
 
This is one of my favorite quotes-
 
"The really wonderful moments of joy in this world are not the moments of self-satisfaction, but self-forgetfulness. Standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon and contemplating your own greatness is pathological. At such moments we are made for a magnificent joy that comes from outside ourselves.”
John Piper, Don't Waste Your Life
 
Why were the wise men overjoyed when they saw the Christ-child? They were full of exceeding joy because they got to lay their eyes on the one who is the source of all joy, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords who had come down to earth for them! 
 
I know my temptation at Christmas is to try really hard to find joy in celebrating and shopping and decorating but as much fun as all those things can be, true joy can only be found in God Himself. My prayer this December is that I won't wait until all the Christmas preparations are done or until I open the perfect gift to find complete JOY in the one who came to earth to bring true "Joy to the World".
 
"You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore." Psalm 16:11
 
Joy to the World , the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven, and Heaven, and nature sing.

Joy to the World, the Savior reigns!
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat, the sounding joy.


Monday, December 3, 2012

Advent Week 2- LOVE

"Love came down at Christmas,
Love all lovely, Love Divine,
Love was born at Christmas,
Star and Angels gave the sign."
Christina Rossetti
 
My focus this second week of Advent is the LOVE of God that came down at Christmas when Jesus was born.
 
Jesus was and is the perfect display of God's love. God is love, true love, and sending His Son to earth, for us, is a perfect picture of His unending love for us. One of my favorite passages of scripture is Zephaniah 3:17. I can feel God's love instantly wash over me as I read it.
 
"The Lord your God is in your midst,
a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing."

Wow! The God of the universe rejoices over me, loves me and exults over me with singing! What a beautiful picture. But, what's even better is the fact that the LORD our God is in our midst. When the angel visited Joseph and explained to him the awesome blessing Mary would bear, he told Joseph the name of the child was to be not only Jesus but Emmanuel, God with us. 

"Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:
 

“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
  and they shall call his name Immanuel”
 (which means, God with us)."
(Matthew 1:18-23 ESV)


Jesus who was with God, ruling and reigning with Him in heaven, humbled himself and became a baby so that he could be "God with us" and ultimately save us from our sins by his death on the cross. Wow, what love! That is perfect love.

"Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends." John 15:13

Last week I mentioned that every time I turned on my Christmas lights I prayed I would remember that Jesus is the LIGHT of the world. This week, as I look at the baby Jesus in my nativity set; I pray that I would remember that "love came down at Christmas". But not only that, I pray that this Christmas season I would remember the words of the Apostle John in 1John 3:16, "By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers."
 
What am I doing, right now, to lay down my life for my brothers? How am I investing my time and my resources in my family, my friends, my neighbors, etc. in a way that displays the love of Christ that God has so richly allowed me to receive?
 
"We love because he first loved us." (1John 4:19 ESV)

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Advent Week 1- LIGHT

As a part of my Advent devotionals this year, I feel God calling me to write often about what He's teaching me this season. I'm guessing it's going to be a great way to keep me focused on Jesus in the midst of the Christmas "craziness". So, here goes...

LIGHT

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men." (John 1:1-4 ESV)

Jesus has always been. He existed in eternity with God. Christmas marks his birth on earth as the Son of Man but Jesus, the Son of God, has always existed. Everything God has created, all the beauty that surrounds us on a daily basis, was made through Jesus. Also, all life is in Jesus and that life is LIGHT.

"The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God..." (John 1:9-12 ESV)

When Jesus was born to Mary and Joseph Christmas Eve in that manger, he came to bring LIGHT to the whole world. But, most people in his time and ours do not know him or recognize him as the LIGHT. But, those who do receive him as the LIGHT that "shines in the darkness" (John 1:5), are given the right to become children of God.

My prayer this week is that as I light my Christmas candles and turn on my Christmas lights; I would be reminded of Jesus, the Light of World, who came for me and for the whole world to overcome darkness.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Surrender

One of my favorite old hymns is "Take My Life and Let It Be". The writer, Frances Havergal wrote most of the song in 1874 but up until 1878 the 4th stanza had not been written. History tells us that, "In 1878, four years after writing the hymn, Miss Havergal wrote a friend, 'The Lord has shown me another little step, and, of course, I have taken it with extreme delight. 'Take my silver and my gold' now means shipping off all my ornaments to the Church Missionary House, including a jewel cabinet that is really fit for a countess, where all will be accepted and disposed of for me...Nearly fifty articles are being packed up. I don't think I ever packed a box with such pleasure.'"

Source: www.christianitytoday.com

After that little act of huge faith she penned these words:

Take my silver and my gold;
Not a mite would I withhold;
Take my intellect, and use
Every power as Thou shalt choose,
Every power as Thou shalt choose.

Source: http://www.hymnal.net/hymn.php/h/445#ixzz2BNnpjXnC

Huh?! This minor historical tidbit has convicted me in a major way. What am I withholding from the Lord? What am I not surrendering so that He can have all of me? What are you withholding from Him? For me, I definitely withhold my time. Unfortunately, I view my time as my own, especially my "Me Time". You know those precious nap times, bedtimes and times where Myla is in school for a few hours. How do I spend my time? My flesh wants to spend my time for me! I want to read and shop and watch my shows and surf the Internet. But, have I asked God what He wants me to do with that time? The short answer is, "No." Why you may ask? Honestly? Because I don't want to surrender my time to Him so He can tell me what to do with it. But, I do know that the few moments I do surrender my time to Him, He blesses that time extravagantly. Why wouldn't I surrender it all?

Today the Lord led me to Romans 12:1, "I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship." (Romans 12:1 ESV)

How am I accepting Paul's appeal? My prayer today is that I will wake daily offering my body (and my time) to God as a living sacrifice. What are you withholding from your Lord today?

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Grief

For the few of you that might read my blog; you've probably noticed I haven't been around much the past few weeks. Let's just say things have been a little crazy. But, I'm back and I want to write a little about what God is teaching me about grief.

I think it's safe to say that I have never experienced real grief until this year. For most of my life, grief hasn't been an emotion I've had to deal with very much. But, over the past few months; I've been experiencing it in abundance.

Grief is a powerful emotion. It affects the you on every level - physically, emotionally, spiritually, etc. I never knew how much it could literally seep into every area of your life and transform each one.

But, I've also been learning that grief is a gift from God. Never in my life have I've fallen so far into the pit but never before have I had to be so dependent on God to pick me up. Now, don't get me wrong, I have good days and bad. Some days I wallow in the pit of self-pity and some days I actually allow God to come in and work His miracles in my life. It is a daily process and a conscious decision I have to make every day.

During this time, I have started to identify more closely with the prophet Jeremiah. Of course my life is not anywhere near as hard as his was, but his words, especially in the book of Lamentations, have spoken to me in profound ways the last few months. In chapter 3 of that book, he spends a good portion of the chapter expressing his deep sadness and grief over the state of his life and ministry.

"So I say, “My splendor is gone
and all that I had hoped from the Lord.”

I remember my affliction and my wandering,
the bitterness and the gall.
I well remember them,
and my soul is downcast within me." Lamentation 3:18-20 (NIV)

But, the instant he realizes he is in the deepest darkest pit is also the instant he remembers the faithfulness and mercies of God. As I read and study verses 21-23, I can't help but cry tears of hope and thankfulness. Oh, what a great God who loves us and is faithful ALL the time, no matter our circumstances. I pray you will be encouraged and blessed by these words as well, no matter the size of the pit you find yourself in today.

"Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:

"Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.” Lamentation 3:21-23 (NIV)

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

He's Got The Whole World In His Hands

One of my daughter's favorite songs is "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands". She actually calls it the "Wind and Rain" song because her favorite verse is "He's Got the Wind and the Rain in His Hands". I must admit, ashamedly, that I usually sing this song without putting any thought into it. I know, I know, bad mom. But, when you sing the same song over and over and over, you tend to start singing mindlessly. Anyways, when we were singing it last night, it struck me for the first time what great theology this little children's song actually contains.

He´s got the whole world in His hands,
He´s got the whole world in His hands,
He´s got the whole world in His hands.

He´s got the wind and the rain in His hands,
He´s got the wind and the rain in His hands,
He´s got the whole world in His hands.

He´s got the the tiny little baby in His hands,
He´s got the the tiny little baby in His hands,
He´s got the whole world in His hands.

He´s got you and me, brother, in His hands,
He´s got you and me, brother, in His hands,
He´s got the whole world in His hands.

He's got ev'rybody here in His hands.
He's got ev'rybody here in His hands.
He's got the whole world in His hands.

Nothing is outside of God's sovereign control. Everything - nature, historical events, tiny babies, adults, every grand and minute detail - is in His hands. Wow! Do I really believe that? Do I really believe that God has EVERYTHING under His control. No, probably not.

As I sit and often wallow in my circumstances, I can't help but think about the life of Job. Man, my daily troubles pail in comparison to his suffering. He had everything and it was all taken from him. Even with all that had happened to him he is still able to express his faith in God's sovereignty.

"The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD. In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong." (Job 1:20-22 ESV)

But, Job does struggle in the days that follow. He obviously trusted God, believed in the promises of God, but he also questions God. He asks God, "Why?" Oh, how comforting those passages are to me. This great man of God with unwavering faith is still human and still has questions in the midst of his suffering. And his most gracious God is so patient with his questions and reminds Job continually of His sovereign rule over everything.

“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell me, if you have understanding.
Who determined its measurements—surely you know!
Or who stretched the line upon it? On what were its bases sunk,
or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together
and all the sons of God shouted for joy?" (Job 38:4-7 ESV)

“Have you entered the storehouses of the snow,
or have you seen the storehouses of the hail,
which I have reserved for the time of trouble,
for the day of battle and war?
What is the way to the place where the light is distributed,
or where the east wind is scattered upon the earth?
Who has cleft a channel for the torrents of rain
and a way for the thunderbolt,
to bring rain on a land where no man is,
on the desert in which there is no man,
to satisfy the waste and desolate land,
and to make the ground sprout with grass?" (Job 38:22-37)

"Who has put wisdom in the inward parts
or given understanding to the mind?
Who can number the clouds by wisdom?
Or who can tilt the waterskins of the heavens,
when the dust runs into a mass
and the clods stick fast together?
Can you hunt the prey for the lion,
or satisfy the appetite of the young lions,
when they crouch in their dens
or lie in wait in their thicket?
Who provides for the raven its prey,
when its young ones cry to God for help,
and wander about for lack of food?" (Job 38:36-41)

God continues for another couple of chapters to remind Job about how every creature and every situation is under His control. He created everything and He sustains everything. It is all "In His Hands."

Job answers God, after all of this, by saying “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted." (Job 42:2 ESV) Amen and amen!

I don't think I will ever be able to sing that song the same way again.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Hope

"Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life." (Proverbs 13:12 ESV)

I've been contemplating disappointment and discouragement a lot lately. Not only has my pastor been preaching on the subjects, but I have been feeling a lot of both of those emotions recently. As I was studying today, I came across Proverbs 13:12 and started thinking about the words hope and desire and expectation.

The writer of Proverbs is stating that if the thing you desire is not obtained in the time expected you will be left disappointed. But if and when the object of desire does arrive, new life is breathed into your heart and soul.

So the question becomes, "What is it that you are desiring or expecting?" The Bible is clear that the things of this world are disappointing and temporal. Let's take money for instance. Wealth does not satisfy and once one reaches a certain level, another level is desired.

When we place our hopes in the things of this world we will be miserable because our expectations lie in things that will never satisfy. But those who hope in God will most certainly be satisfied. Scripture is clear that those who call themselves children of God should not hope for much from this world, this world is sure to disappoint, but we should hope for much from the world that is to come.

"If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory." (Colossians 3:1-4 ESV)

When discouragement sets in we are called to remind ourselves to hope in God as David did in Psalm 42.

"Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?
 Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God." (Psalm 42:5 ESV)


So as I am constantly praying for my own heart to not be discouraged and to hope in God; I gain great comfort from the words of Jesus from John 16. My prayers is that you will as well.

"I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 ESV)

Monday, August 20, 2012

Okay with Being Bored

I know most of you grown-ups, especially moms, might be confused by the title of this post. Most adults and parents can't even fathom the concept of boredom let alone being okay with being bored. Well, just recently I very unexpectedly found myself in the role of stay-at-home mom which in and of itself is not boring, believe me. But, 3 days a week my 2.5 year old is attending half-day preschool and I have no idea what to do with myself.

Today was her first day and as I dropped her off I thought to myself, "What the heck am I going to do for the next 4 hours?" I know it's unusual to find yourself without errands to run and without chores that need to be done around the house, but that's where I found myself this morning. And what's even worse, I sat in front of my computer with nothing to write about.

So what did I do next? I start moaning and pouting about how I wish my life was more exciting or that I could find something "meaningful" to do with my time. In that moment of self-pity, God reminded me that there are seasons in one's life and each season is a blessing if seen through His eyes.

"There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens..." Ecclesiastes 3:1

There have been and will be times in my life where the calendar will be full and life will be crazy. But, right now is not one of them and that's okay. I don't know what God's doing but I know He has brought me to this point for a reason. My responsibility is to see this time as a time of preparation for whatever He has in store next and I just need to rest in Him, waiting patiently for the next open door.

Monday, August 13, 2012

True Rest

It seems lately that I live in a constant state of exhaustion. (Such is life with a two year old, I guess.) As I type this my daughter is napping and I'm wondering if I should do the same. All of these thoughts about sleep and naps and rest reminds me of the fact that God NEVER sleeps. Psalm 121:4 says,

"Behold, he who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep."

God is self-sufficient and never gets tired. Even while I'm sleeping; He keeps a constant watch over all things. He's even watching over little ol' me! While that is a comforting thought; I often wish I didn't need sleep. Think of all the things I could accomplish if only I didn't need 8 hours of sleep and an occasional nap!

But, Scripture says that God gave sleep to us as a gift. God designed our physical bodies to need rest and restoration through sleep.

"It is in vain that you rise up early
and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil;
for he gives to his beloved sleep." Psalm 127:2


Our physical body is not the only part of us that needs rest. Spiritually we are all in desperate need of rest. Jesus says, "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

Because of sin, our hearts are tired. For many of us, including yours truly, our first instinct is to strive to do good, to make things right, to pull up our boot straps and fix our hearts on our own. But Jesus says that we can come to him, not laboring and striving, but freely and he will give us rest. Because of the cross, we can rest from the constant work of trying to get to God on our own merit. The work has already been done, all we have to do is rest in Jesus.

In the Old Testament God gave the Isrealites the gift of the Sabbath, a day of rest once a week. For them specifically, the Sabbath law was a picture of the rest God would eventually give them when they reached the Promise Land. But the Sabbath is also forshadowing for all of God's people. God has promised us an everlasting rest that was ushered in by His Son. The ultimate fufillment of the Sabbath promise will happen when believers enter God's rest in the new creation God will bring when Christ returns.

"So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God's rest has also rested from his works as God did from his." Hebrews 4:9-10

So, as I contemplate my constant state of exhaustion, I'm grateful for the gift of sleep for my physical body. But, I'm also thankful for the constant reminder that I can stop all my striving and laboring and find true rest in Jesus.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Lip Service

Yesterday at church we sang several of my favorite songs but one has lingered with me over the past 24 hours - All To Us by Chris Tomlin. I was so excited when the song started that I couldn't wait to start singing. But about half-way through the chorus which reads,

Let the glory of Your name be the passion of the Church
Let the righteousness of God be a holy flame that burns
Let the saving love of Christ be the measure of our lives
We believe You're all to us

it was like the Spirit closed my mouth. Could I really sing that the saving love of Christ was the measure of my life and that I believed that God was all to me? It got even worse when we got to the bridge,

You're all to us
You're all to us
You're all to us
Yes, You are

No matter how hard I tried to sing "You're all to us"; I couldn't. It was as if God was asking me, "Am I really all to you?" I couldn't sing any more words to the song until I confessed that He's not all to me. His love is often not the measure of my life.

To sing that song unless it was really true felt like I was giving lip service to God. I had to confess that while I wanted those words to be true in my life, they weren't. I want God to be all I need. But in real life, outside the church walls; He isn't. So many things of this world - money, fame, the praise of others, etc. distract me and lead me to believe that they are all I need, not God.

That experience in church yesterday reminded me that daily I need to approach God, confessing that I want Him to be all to me but I am weak and I am sinful. I need Him to give me faith so that I will want only Him and nothing else.

During times of conviction and repentance such as these, the words of John always comfort me.

"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." 1 John 1:9

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Daddy Can Fix It!

I'm always surprised that my two year old can teach me so much more about spiritual matters than any adult ever could. A couple of days ago, Myla walked up to me distraught that her bear's sunglasses had broken. (Yes, my daughter's bear has sunglasses. Thanks Nana!). After inspecting them, I tried to explain to her how they appeared to be unfixable. With a straight face and with extreme enthusiasm, she said, "Daddy can fix them! He fixes everything!"

I was struck instantly by her unabandoned faith in her daddy. Then God brought to my mind Matthew 18:3. Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven."

Most children truly believe that their parents can fix any and everything. The humble faith of a little one is the faith that God expects from all His children. Faith that trusts that He can do anything, fix anything no matter the circumstances.

Then I asked myself a very pointed question, "Do I fully trust my heavenly Daddy who can and does fix everything as much my daughter trusts her parents who are sinful and definitely fallible?" Talk about convicting. (I'm constantly amazed by the fact that parenting is such a sanctifying job.) I pray that I can say in all matters, "My daddy can fix it!"

Oh and in case you were wondering, yes, Myla's daddy did fix her bear's sunglasses.    

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Who Am I?

After much prayer and contemplation, I've felt God's leading to start a blog. Not because I feel like there are many people out there who really care much for what I have to say, but because I feel God is teaching me abundantly everyday more about who He is and who I am not. Maybe there is just one other person out there who needs to hear the same things I need to hear from Him.

I've spent days trying to decide what my first post should contain. As I was praying in my car this morning and listening to Pandora, I heard the song "Who Am I?" by Watermark. If you've never heard it, please take a second to Google it. Not only is the music beautiful but the lyrics are so compelling. It's like God said, "Here's your post."

Who am I
That You would love me so gently?
Who am I
That You would recognize my name?
Lord, who am I
That You would speak to me so softly?
Conversation with the Love most high,..
Who am I?


I could sing those words back to Him over and over again. Who am I? Who am I that God would love me so gently and so greatly and so perfectly? Who am I that God would call me by name? Who am I that the God of the universe would speak to me, not with words of judgment, but with soft words of grace?

And that's what this blog will be - a conversation with the Love most high. Like you, I'm just an ordinary girl but by God's lavish grace; He's given me an extraordinary treasure. My prayer is that He would be glorified in me.