Christmas is a time of great joy and this Christmas joy is rooted in an announcement from an angel to shepherds out in the field keeping watch over their flock one night. That particular night God’s glory was unmistakable as the bible tells it; “the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear.” (Luke 2:9) Have you noticed that when life gets dark, God’s glory shines its brightest when we turn to Him for help?
“And the angel said to them, Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” (Luke 2:10)
A Savior, who is Christ the Lord was born on this day and the shepherds found Him wrapped in swaddling cloths and 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 among those with whom He is pleased.” (Luke 2:13-14)
This is the Merry in Christmas and peace to those with whom God is pleased. And how is God pleased? When we adore His Son Jesus, who is Christ the Lord.
Honor, devotion and worship are qualities of adoration towards someone. If your heart desires to honor God in all that you say and do, you are pleasing Him. If you are devoted to keeping God the priority of your life, you are pleasing to Him. If you are willing to live a life of worship to God by submitting to His will, you are pleasing to Him.
“Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” (Luke 2:15)
“For to us a child is born, to us a Son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulder, and His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6)
Jesus is our good news and great joy, the Merry in our Christmas. His glory is unmistakable!
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Have you noticed that two overriding themes of the Bible are trust and obedience? Both words are used hundreds of times in giving both positive and negative insight. Christians are encouraged to trust in God as we journey through life in ever-increasing measure. The more we trust God the more obedience is established in our relationship with Him.
“Trust in Him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us.” (Psalm 62:8)
A trust walk keeps our focus on God and our lives aligned with His will. This intentional walk based on trust can also keep us free from becoming entangled in sin, which can lead to bondage. Sin removes us from a position of trusting in God to meet our needs towards trusting in ourselves to meet our need. Often we are lead into sin by our own lust, desiring the very things that steer us in the direction of a lifestyle of bondage.
“But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” (James 1:14-15)
A sin focused life leads to destruction, devastation and even ultimate death on some level. Sadly, the fall-out usually impacts a wide circle of lives.
Our freedom from the power of sin has been bought and paid for by Jesus who willingly gave His life as a sacrifice in order to offer us a life with the freedom to choose. Those who place their faith in Jesus can actually choose to sin or not to sin. They are no longer in bondage to the power of sin.
Sin is blinding and its fall-out usually happens slowly (like the frog place in a pot of water that slowly heats until it’s too late to escape for his life). When we choose to sin the dying process begins and we won’t realize the full devastation until the process is fully grown.
There are many examples of God’s people being delivered from calamity because they placed their trust in Him by waiting for His instruction before taking things into their own hands. He knows exactly how and when we need deliverance and does it in a way that builds our trust in Him.
“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation He will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” (1Corinthians 10:13)
During a recent walk-run in our neighborhood a huge truck came up alongside me and the driver asked “is this the way out?” Yelling above the engine noise I replied, “yes, this road leads to the way out!”
Friend, Jesus is the road to the way out of a life of sin and bondage!
“For You have delivered my soul from death, yes, my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of life.” (Psalm 56:13)
“Life is hard but God is good” is a statement I heard many years ago that rings true of life’s journey. Jesus warned us that:
“…In this world you will have tribulation. But take heart, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
The beauty and strength in Jesus’ perspective is that He knew the depth of sufficiency and power that would be provided through Him to overcome the world. It also means that Jesus followers have to know that their approach to overcoming tribulation will be different from the worlds approach. And we need to know what we’re fighting for.
In the movie Cinderella Man, the history making boxer (Jim Braddock) who is experiencing an incredible comeback after loosing everything is asked to explain his sudden success. His response resonates a new-found purpose that was birthed through his tribulation:
“This time around I know what I’m fighting for.”
Do you know what you’re fighting for in life? Knowing begins with discovering God and His purpose for your life. Jesus lived to please God. He accomplished the work that He was sent to accomplish on earth amidst great tribulation. He knew what He was fighting for, to bring the light of salvation to the world. We see His determination and focus through the prophet Isaiah;
“But the Lord God helps Me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame.” (Isaiah 50:7)
God has a good plan for your life and it takes a fierce focus on Him to discover and fulfill it against the tribulations of living in this world. Know what you’re fighting for. How you spend eternity is weighing in the balance.
“…But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14)
Extenders of mercy are considered to be good Samaritans, willing to come to the aid of another. They seem ready to extend kindness by doing the unexpected, extending compassion instead of judgement, pity instead of criticism.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” (Matthew 5:7)
Mercy extenders are mercy receivers.
“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life…” (Psalm 23:6)
God made a promise to those who choose to follow Him as a shepherd leader who would never leave us during our journey through life. He promised goodness and mercy would dwell among us. Thankfully, He also gave us the insight into how this lifestyle could be maintained, He knew that we could not be extenders of mercy without first receiving His mercy.
“…for apart from Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)
We are described as sheep without a shepherd, lost and exposed to all the dangers of life before coming into the sheltering mercy of God. He is the originator of Mercy, delivered to mankind through His Son, Jesus. (Luke 19:10)
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
We become recipients of mercy when we believe in Jesus, the Savior of the world. Once this happens we are called to become extenders of mercy. Only then can we begin to understand the vastness of the mercy we have received and the joy of extending it to others. It reflects the security we have in God to meet our needs.
“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” (Psalm 23:6)
Enjoy the mercies of God in your life by extending mercy to others!
God gave King Solomon the wisdom to share his perspective on life and how we should view our time on this earth. He declares that there is a time set by God for every event that occurs under heaven.
“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven…” (Ecclesiastes 3:1)
Knowing what ‘season’ of life you are in can help you in shaping your approach in the comfort of knowing that God has set a beginning and an end. You can decide ahead of time to endure toward victory or defeat as you travel through it, allowing God to accomplish His will for your life.
King David not only walked through a long season of warfare but learned to embrace it as preparation for God’s call on his life. He learned to invite God in on every decision for battle, seeking His advice on how to approach every enemy that was brought before him. He understood that God works in seasons of our lives in order to do good for us in the end. David was committed to endure the war in order to come into God’s good and perfect will for his life.
“…a time for war, and a time for peace.” (Ecclesiasstes 3:8)
Like King David, when our season of war ends and God brings us into a season of rest from all our enemies, it is a time of peace. And we are to remember to give thanks to God.
“Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; for His steadfast love endures forever!” (1Chronicles 16:34)
If you are in a season of war know that God will supply all that you need to triumph in the end. When He brings you through to peace remember to give thanks for He is good and will sustain you through the war.
“Oh give thanks to the Lord, call upon His name; make known His deeds among the peoples!(1Chronicles 16:8)
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Discovering God’s will for your life is the path of blessing and it begins the moment we surrender our lives to Him. A surrendered life is intentional about staying on God’s path, knowing that His path is where the blessing is.
We are given a wonderful picture of what it means to follow God in the story of the Israelites when they roamed the wilderness for 40 years in the Book of Numbers. God’s presence was associated with the tabernacle, His cloud covered it during the day and it took on the appearance of fire during the night. They were instructed to settle and move out according to whenever the cloud lifted up or set in place over the tabernacle.
“And whenever the cloud lifted from over the tent, after that the people of Israel set out, and in the place where the cloud settled down, there the people of Israel camped.” (Numbers 9:17)
Following the blessing provides direction and provision towards being established in God’s will. This is the only path that produces lasting fruit in our lives and the lives we are fortunate to impact along the way. God’s path refines and clarifies, it rids us of sin and unnecessary baggage that hinders our effectiveness in the areas of our purpose. It cultivates obedience and intimacy as we get to know God better with every step.
To follow the blessing means placing your trust in God’s direction and His ways of accomplishing the desired results in your life. To do this well we must believe in His sovereign wisdom and care for us as we journey the path, even when it doesn’t make sense.
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9)
When we choose to follow the blessing, God promises to fulfill every word that He has spoken over our lives. The Israelites that chose to follow God’s blessing came into the full inheritance that was promised to them under Joshua’s leadership. God’s path lead them into the ultimate blessing, the promised land.
“And now I am about to go the way of all the earth, and you know in your hearts and souls, all of you, that not one word has failed of all the good things that the Lord your God promised concerning you. All have come to pass for you; not one of them has failed.” (Joshua 23:14)
Be sure that you are following the blessing by following God. He promises to offer strong support to those whose hearts are turned toward Him. (2 Chronicles 16:9) You will find that He is the blessing and that the blessing is found in Him!
Have you ever been asked by God to choose the less traveled road that seemed to include sacrifice and loneliness? If you obeyed His voice you know that it required a faith deeper than you had at the moment of acceptance. And you had to come to terms that obeying came with no guarantees on the desired outcome compared to the labor that it seemed to involve. Did you know that God promises that the labor that He calls us to will not be in vain?
“Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord, your labor is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:58)
When God calls us to labor on His behalf it is assumed that we know it can only be done in the Lord. Otherwise how can we be ‘steadfast, immovable, always abounding’ in accomplishing what we have accepted to do?
The call to labor encompasses every arena of life and relationships. Some are called to labor for their marriage, family, children, health, home, career or ministry. Whatever the call, whatever the sacrifice involved we are admonished to be ‘steadfast, immovable and always abounding’ in our labor in the Lord.
Labor can involve suffering and hardship, yet it is not in vain. Our faith is tested in the Lord and when we endure we come forth pure as gold, through the refining fire of God’s love. We may not achieve our initial desired outcome but God always delivers a far richer outcome than we could have imagined. Knowing Him more, being transformed into the image of Christ and reaping the divine fruit of faithful labor in the Lord.
“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen and establish you.” (1 Peter 5:10)
Your labor is not in vain!