Jan 102013
 

[I read this blog post from Ann Voskamp:  The Grateful Christmas Project: 7 Ways to have more Grateful Kids this Christmas and I liked it so much that I had write about it on my blog too :-]

What’s does Jesus get for His birthday? Have you ever thought of that?  Don’t we have this whole Christmas thing wrong? It’s Jesus birthday and we go out and buy everyone gifts except Him.

What if on my birthday or your birthday, every family member went out and bought every other family member a gift except me or you? I would probably be down right angry!

Perhaps we need to re-think Christmas? What if Jesus and His birthday were the primary focus of Christmas? What if giving Jesus gifts was part or the whole of our Christmas?

Ann talks about how her family started doing this about a dozen years ago or so.  How instead of giving each other gifts, they…

“It happens after breakfast, each day for the last two weeks of Advent, selecting one gift for He who is Christmas.”

… give Jesus a gift by selecting one from the various catalogs linked below:

Compassion Catalog … World Vision Catalog… Samaritan’s Purse… Partner’s International Catalog

Gospel for Asia Catalog… Mennonite Central Committee Catalog …

giving

giving giving

Our family tried this this year. We still gave gifts to each other, but we also picked a couple of gifts from these catalogs to give to the One who celebrates His birthday at Christmas.

I would really love to hear from you.  Have you ever tried what I describe above? How did it turn out?

Hurting?

 Hurting  Comments Off on Hurting?
Jul 282012
 

“The ropes of death surrounded me; the floods of destruction swept over me. The grave wrapped its ropes around me; death itself stared me in the face.” — Psalm 18:4-5

Sometimes when I’m hurting, I don’t even know why.

Perhaps the worries and cares of this life have overwhelmed me; perhaps I have been going and going and going without a break; perhaps I haven’t spent quality time with my Father.

Whatever the reason, hurting and pain seem to be integral parts of life in this world.

The question becomes, “What do I do with my hurts and pain?”

Do I just keep going and allow them to affect every part of my life? All my relationships – my spouse, my kids, my co-workers, my boss, and all others?

Do I just keep going and try to balance out the pain in my life with illicit pleasures and other stuff – work, food, TV, relationships, sex, drugs, alcohol, etc.

How do I deal with my pain in a healthy way?

This morning, I was hurting, without even knowing why.  I seemed to have forgotten how to deal with my pain.

http://fineartamerica.com/featured/hurting-helena-wierzbicki.html

http://fineartamerica.com/featured/hurting-helena-wierzbicki.html

Then, I read this quote from Beth Moore:

“Intimacy with God is that I can come in with the honesty of my heart, tell Him how much I’m hurting.”

Then, I remembered.  The light bulb came on.  Why don’t I take my pain and hurts to the Lord?

So, that’s what I did.  I did the same thing that King David did in Psalm 18:6:

“But in my distress I cried out to the Lord; yes, I prayed to my God for help.”

Did he hear me?

“He heard me from his sanctuary; my cry reached his ears.”

Did he respond to me?

“Then the earth quaked and trembled. The foundations of the mountains shook; they quaked because of his anger. 8 Smoke poured from his nostrils; fierce flames leaped from his mouth. Glowing coals blazed forth from him. 9 He opened the heavens and came down; dark storm clouds were beneath his feet. 10 Mounted on a mighty angelic being,[a] he flew, soaring on the wings of the wind. 11 He shrouded himself in darkness, veiling his approach with dark rain clouds. 12 Thick clouds shielded the brightness around him and rained down hail and burning coals.[b] 13 The Lord thundered from heaven; the voice of the Most High resounded amid the hail and burning coals. 14 He shot his arrows and scattered his enemies; his lightning flashed, and they were greatly confused. 15 Then at your command, O Lord, at the blast of your breath, the bottom of the sea could be seen, and the foundations of the earth were laid bare. 

16 He reached down from heaven and rescued me; he drew me out of deep waters. 17 He rescued me from my powerful enemies, from those who hated me and were too strong for me. 18 They attacked me at a moment when I was in distress, but the Lord supported me. 19 He led me to a place of safety; he rescued me because he delights in me.”

The Christian Life is just TOO HARD!

 Relationship with God  Comments Off on The Christian Life is just TOO HARD!
May 142010
 

Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. — Phil 1:6 (NIV)

Many times I have become as Joyce Meyer says, “Holy Spirit Jr.”  I feel as though I have to witness to everyone, pray for everyone, and do all of these grandiose things.  And, of course, I never tend to meet my expectations of myself.  I fail to witness to someone or fail to pray for them and then end up beating myself up because of my failure. 

In the end, the Christian life just seems too hard.  It seems as though I will never be able meet my expectations of myself.  I don’t have the fruits of the spirit that I believe I should have (i.e. love, joy, peace, etc) because I feel this constant pressure to perform.  I am not free to love people the way I should because I feel that I have to win them to Christ.  I have a secret, ulterior motive.  Love is not the end.  It’s only a means to win them to Christ. 

Where did this come from?  I believe it came from Satan himself.  He is the father of lies and poses as an angel of light (John 8:44, 2 Cor 11:14).  He twists the truth so that it still has an element of truth but it becomes a lie because it’s not entirely truth.  Jeannie’s Journal says the following:

“The enemy’s purpose is that with all our self effort that yields no results, we’ll give up on the Christian life because it’s TOO HARD. That’s his number one trick for making people either turn away from God or turn to religion and rules over relationship. The most disciplined wins, the least discipline loses. The truth is, they both lose because they have listened to the voice of the enemy and tried to become holy in their own self effort, outside of God’s perfect, loving, gentle plan for their sanctification.”

Satan knows where we are in our Christian walk.  He knows what we are capable of at this point in time and he knows what we are not capable of.  He tries to get us to do the things that we are not capable of by making them look like the right, Christian things to do (he poses as an angel of light).  He tries to get us to walk before learning to crawl.  Then, when we fail, he is right there accusing us and telling us how bad we are.

“Being” and “Doing”

Jeannie touches on something that I believe is often misunderstood in the Church.  She uses the word relationship.  Over the years, many teachers / preachers in my life have focused on “doing” instead of “being”.  They have taught about being Christ’s hands and feet but have failed to focus on having a relationship with Christ.

I believe that “being” should be our first and foremost priority.  God wants to know us intimately.  We are His dear children whom He loves very much.  Then, only after “being” in the presence of our Father, are we equipped and capable of effectively going and “doing”.

I will say this again, we are not capable of effectively “doing” until we have “been” in the presence of our Father.  Sure, we can go and “do” (without “being”) by our own self effort, but it will be ineffective.

Two Illustrations from the Word

Let’s look at the story of Mary and Martha in Luke 10:38-42:

“As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him.  She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.  But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, ‘Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!’

‘Martha, Martha,’ the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed.  Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.’ ”

Here we see that Mary is sitting at Jesus’ feet listening while Martha is busy working, worrying, and being generally stressed out.  Martha asks Jesus for help and Jesus responds, “only one thing is needed.  Mary has chosen what is better…” 

What if only one thing was really needed — sitting at Jesus’ feet, listening, “being”?  What if everything else (“doing”) flowed from this time at Jesus’ feet?

Another example from God’s Word is found in Matthew 7:21-23:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.  Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’  Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ ”

Here we see that many people will do what they believe to be God’s will – prophesying, casting out demons, performing miracles, etc.  However, God will not let them enter into heaven.  Why?  Because they didn’t take the time to know God well enough to know what His will really was for them.  They read the Bible and modeled what they saw in it – prophesying, casting out demons, performing miracles, etc – but this was not God’s will for them at all. 

The only way that we can really know what God’s will is for our lives is to spend time with Him.  To get to know Him on a personal and intimate level.  Then, He will be more than happy to tell us what His will is for us.

The Most Important Commandment

In addition, Jesus tells us that the most important commandment is to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12:29-31).  How do we do this?  The only way for us to do this is to get to know Him.  In order to love someone with this kind of intensity, we must truly know the person on a deep intimate level.  We must know their character so that we can freely love them for who they are. 

 When we don’t truly know and therefore love God as we should, the Christian life will seem too hard.  It will seem like a bunch of “do’s” and “don’ts” (rules) that we must abide by in order to please God.  What does this sound like?  Works based salvation. 

 There is no such thing as works based salvation.  It is only by grace that we are saved through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9).  However, when we don’t truly know and therefore love God as we should, we try to earn favor with God by being good and by doing good works.  Many times we are not even aware that we are doing this.  We do it on a subconscious level.  We wouldn’t consciously choose to do it because we know intellectually that we cannot be saved by our good works.  Yet, because we don’t know and therefore love God properly, the “doing” cannot flow naturally out of our great love for Him.

The only thing that is left is “doing” out of duty or obligation.  Because God loved us first and saved us, we feel contractually obligated to love Him and to live a good Christian life.  So we try to love Him deeply without truly knowing Him (which is impossible) and try to live the best Christian life that we can by our own self effort.  This results in us attempting good behavior and good deeds out of duty or obligation instead of out of our great love for Him.

God does not want us to love him only because we feel that we are contractually obligated to do so (its okay if this is where you are currently – don’t feel condemned – read on).  He wants us to love Him freely for who He is.  He wants us to get to know His character.

David said that, “The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love (Psalm 103:8).”  Jonah echoes this when he says, “I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity (Jonah 4:2).”  This is God’s character, who He is.  However, these may be just words on a page without real meaning if you’ve never gotten to really know Him.    

Summary

The most important thing in this life is to “be” in a relationship with God.  To get to know Him, His character, and who He truly is.  Once we really know God, loving Him with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength will come naturally.  Our love for Him will not be out of duty or obligation but out of first hand knowledge of His goodness.  The Christian life will not be too hard because the “doing” will flow naturally from us “being” in relationship with our Father who loves us dearly.      

Practical Steps to Take

As part of your daily devotions, find a quiet place that is free from distractions.  Spend some time just “being” in the presence of God.  Do not pray or read your Bible.  Just relax in the presence of God.  Mediate on Him.  Try to visualize Him or perhaps a scene from the Bible (this will keep your mind occupied so that it doesn’t stray).  Listen for any words that come to mind.  Write them down.  One way that God speaks to us is through spontaneous thoughts.  My prayer is that God would reveal His true character to you in this time.

In addition, learn scriptures about God’s character, meditate on them, and confess them out loud.  I like to write scripture down on index cards and carry them around in my pocket so that I can recite them and meditate on them throughout the day.  Also, listen to worship music and sermons about the character and love of God.  Read books and other materials about His character, grace, mercy, and love.  I would encourage you to pray that God would give you a “conscious knowing” of His great love for you.  Do these things for as long as you need to.  It may take many months but it will be well worth it.

A Final Word from Jeannie’s Journal

“God loves you so tenderly. He loves you exactly like you are, with all the unsanctified thoughts and deeds you do. He has a plan to change you that is slow and steady and full of peace and joy. His plan will prevail. YOU ARE PREDESTINED FOR IT. And it’s not you that will do it…it’s all Him. You don’t have to work. God does the work. The Christian life is not too hard. It’s not hard at all. It’s about cuddling up in the arms of the father who loves you. The father who accepts you just as you are today. He isn’t disappointed in you. That’s the lie of the accuser. The Lord wants you to quit listening to those lies and take back your inheritance – the peace He purchased for you. It’s yours.

You are acceptable to God.”

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