12/31/08

Before We Look Ahead

New Year’s resolutions can be freeing, but more often than not, they are frustrating. We set our plans and goals, only to see them knocked about, changed, ignored, or forgotten within months or even days.

Perhaps we would be better served by not making resolutions, but rather, determining to fix our eyes on Jesus. He who is the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2), died to begin a transformation process within God’s elect, and the Spirit of God works to bring about that change.

Having just passed Christmas, we focused on Jesus as the “Christ child,” but facing the New Year, we need a fresh vision of Jesus that will inspire us to change. David Butts, Chairman of America’s National Prayer Committee, wrote, “It is time for the Church of Jesus Christ to see Jesus! To see Him as He really is, not as a mascot, but as our monarch.” Jesus, our monarch—our Lord and sovereign King—is in charge of everything. In Colossians 1:15-20, we get a glimpse of His majesty, and Revelation 1:13-17 reveals how people react when they see Jesus in His glorified body. Our vision of Jesus should fill us with awe and wonder that He would consider us to love us so. It should inspire us to serve Him forever.

I encourage you, either today or on the first day of the New Year, to read these two passages. Rather than a list of resolutions, choose to offer God two outstretched hands of surrender to His will. Ask God for fresh vision and a hunger for His presence and righteousness in the year to come.

12/24/08

Anticipation

It’s Christmas Eve—get-together time for my immediate family. We “have” Christmas Eve, and my grown sons go to their wives’ homes on Christmas day. As a girl, my family went to my dad’s home on Christmas Eve, and my mom’s home on Christmas—it appears I’ve chosen to continue that tradition.

Actually, I’ve always loved Christmas Eve. Maybe it was the anticipation, waiting for Christmas morning. My parents stayed up late to wrap gifts—more work for them than fun—while I lay in bed dreaming of ripping open those beautiful boxes. Though we’d usually open gifts in our pajamas, clothes were carefully laid out for Christmas dinner (and sometimes, church). Everything was ready and waiting.

I wonder whether the Jews truly anticipated the miracle of Christmas. The devout knew that a Messiah was prophesied. Young Mary and Joseph knew a special baby was due any minute. I wonder whether anticipation mingled with Mary’s labor pains; her baby would change the focus of all history.

Yet today, as I anticipate the celebration of Christmas, I look forward to another day, perhaps not too far in the future. I want to be ready and waiting for that day, too. Some day, Jesus—grown to holy manhood, crucified, buried, resurrected, and my living Lord—will call me to join Him in heaven. “What a day that will be, when my Jesus I shall see.” I’m getting goose bumps, just thinking about it.

12/17/08

"Hey You -- Fear Not!"

As the angels appeared to the shepherds to announce the coming of Jesus in Bethlehem, they first had to deal with the shepherds’ sudden fear. “Fear not,” an angel said. “I bring you good tidings. Listen to this good news” (Luke 2:10-11). How we need that message today.

As I watch Israel and Iran flex their military muscles and escalate their threats, listen to dire financial predictions, and hear disturbing reports about crime in neighborhoods near mine, it is easy to give in to unreasonable fear. The world is not a safe place. The world is confused and running headlong into disaster. The world is in a constant panic. The world has many good reasons to panic! But the peace that Jesus gives is out of this world—“My peace I give unto you, not as the world gives,” Jesus said (John 14:27). His words to us are “Don’t be afraid.” Throughout the scriptures we are commanded to “fear not,” “have courage,” and trust in the Lord, our Mighty Fortress.

Fear has always been one of my besetting sins. Left to myself, rather than walking in the Spirit, I struggle with unreasonable fears that lead to anxiety and depression. Fear robs us of peace to the point that we cannot experience many of God’s blessings.

There is a better way, and God in His mercy and grace is teaching me how to deal with my fears. When tempted to fear, I have a clear choice. I can linger in and entertain my fears, or I can go straight to prayer. I can choose trust in God and take courage in His presence, power, protection, and provision. I’m learning to counsel my heart firmly with God’s Word, saying, “Hey you—fear not! God is with you!”

12/10/08

Adventure Zone!

Hannah Whitall Smith, a 19th century Quaker author, wrote, “Dear friend, I make the glad announcement to thee that the Lord is in thy heart. Since the day of thy conversion He has been dwelling there, but thou hast lived on in ignorance of it.” When I read these words, I reflected on their convicting truth. How different would my life be, I thought, if I could live in full awareness of God’s presence, love, direction, and power? What an adventure!

I read Smith’s words in a devotional, Asleep in the Land of Nod by David Butts. The devotional’s purpose is to awaken the Church and prepare it for the touch of God in revival. The author wrote, “We abstractly ask ourselves, ‘What would Jesus do?’ but what changes would occur if we directly asked our indwelling Lord, ‘Jesus, what are you doing?’” Dr. David Jeremiah, pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church, often challenges his congregation to find out what God is doing, and then to “get on board.” Dr. Jeremiah is passionate about believers pursuing God’s purposes and living out the adventures God has prepared for them. We should never be afraid of God’s “Adventure Zone”—after all, that’s where the true fun of our journey lies.

God’s Spirit indwells us and He desires to work in and through us every moment of the day. Satan wants to obscure that fact and distract us. The reality is that God’s presence is not only a promise; it is a powerful motivator. In Him, we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28). It is Christ in us, “the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27) that animates our journey. As we choose to follow Him wholeheartedly, we experience His bountiful blessings.

12/3/08

Happy Holi-daze!

December already? Every year I say I’ll begin my Christmas shopping in the summer, buy holiday groceries throughout the year, and be so prepared that I can relax and enjoy the season. That’s the plan, but once again, I’m in a holi-daze. I stare into the air, wondering what I’ve forgotten, or where I’m going to find that “perfect” gift.

In this land of abundance, there are millions of things to buy. Matching those things to people isn’t easy, however, and sometimes our budget won’t cooperate with our desires. None of us want to “fail” the ones we love with an imperfect gift. There are Christmases that I’ve longed for the simpler days when children were thrilled to get fresh oranges in the toes of their Christmas stockings, and adults were content that family could finally be together—as my sweet Grandma said, “That’s all the gift I need.”

I still struggle with not wanting to “fail” loved ones, but a turning point came for me when I changed “holiday” to “holy-day.” Christmas is a sacred celebration for Christians as we remember the day Jesus broke through the barrier between heaven and earth to create a bridge for us to heaven. Remembering that doesn’t take away the stresses of the season, but it does restore some sanity. Christmas is all about Him, not us. We must make reasonable, wise choices in our giving, and spontaneous celebration must be tempered with planned pauses to reflect, or we will short-circuit the blessings of Christmas.