The Merry in our Christmas

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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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Out of Bondage

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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)

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Passing the Test of Obedience

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Passing the test of obedience is a mark of how well we are willing to follow God and the diligence required to trust and obey His instructions.

“Then the Lord said to Moses, Behold, I am about to rain bread from heaven for you, and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in My law or not.” (Exodus 16:4)

Some years ago God used a simple circumstance in my life to reveal to me that I did not possess the spiritual fortitude that I presumed and that I was not prepared for the future ‘tests’ that would come my way. It was when my car was being serviced and I received a frantic call from my daughter who had left her school report at home and if not turned in on that day she would receive a failing grade.

So, I did what any mother would have done, I decided to ride my bicycle to her school knowing that I was committing myself to a ten-mile hilly trek (we lived in southern California) to the school and back. I presumed in my mind that I was physically fit enough to endure the trip.

Getting to the school was no problem, it was mostly downhill with slight uphill moments. And delivering my daughters report brought satisfaction towards my effort as a mom (although this later became a mother-daughter teaching moment). It was the return trip that became a teaching moment for me and my spiritual journal with God.

Cycling home was another matter; it was mostly uphill and tested my body in a way that I had not experienced before. Several times I had to stop and after taking a break, get back on the bicycle and painfully force my pedals to rotate enough to get me home. I arrived completely wasted of bodily strength, dehydrated and too weak to walk.

God used this unsuspecting circumstance to illustrate my lack of spiritual fortitude and diligence required for an enduring walk of obedience. He showed me that to “walk in a manner worthy” of His calling on my life would require intentional focus on preparing myself to pass every test of life allowed in my life. It would require diligently seeking getting to know God and His instructions for living an abundant life in Him through His Son, Jesus.

The Israelite’s had to learn to depend on the daily bread from heaven before entering into the promised land. We have Jesus who is the Bread of Life (John 6:35).

“…it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven.” (John 6:32)

Passing the test of obedience has everything to do with our daily reliance on God’s provision through Jesus Christ our Lord and intentionally building a foundation in Him that prepares us to not only endure the tests of life but also to pass them!

“…give us this day our daily bread…”

(Matthew 6:11)

Pressing On

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“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)

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One Hope

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Hope is a positive emotion, the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best. What is your hope based upon and on whom are you relying to achieve the outcomes you hope for?

Self-reliance has a proven history of mixed results. How often have you failed to reached the desired end of a hope born out of inspiration? Or encountered another human being that didn’t have a failure or two to remind them that hope in ‘self’ can not be trusted to get you where you want to be?

Jesus had something to say about hope. He revealed to us who our hope should be anchored in to ensure crossing the finish line of life without regret. He knew and took the steps to live His life in a way that would please His Father in heaven. He humbled Himself and followed every command of His Father without exception. He trusted God and placed all His hope in Him to the point of God becoming His all in all. And He did it for us.

“…then the Son himself will also be subjected to Him who put all things in subjection under Him, that God may be all in all.” (1Corinthians 15:28)

 God is our sure and living hope offered through Jesus Christ who humbled Himself by descending from heaven to save a hopeless, self-reliant people striving after the wind.

It is in Christ Jesus we find eternal hope and triumph over failure and triumph in life. When we place our trust in Him He promises to stay with us to the end.

“…I will never leave you nor forsake you…” (Hebrews 13:5)

Out outcome has been guaranteed, sealed in eternity in the power of His Name. He is our One Hope, our all in all!

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you…” (1Peter 5:6)

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A Mother’s Prayer

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My mother raised eight children and she is my hero. When I think about my childhood and her influence on my life the word prayer comes to mind. Her faith in God grew with every baby she birthed, with each new level of life’s challenges and the growing complexity of managing a large family. She learned to pray about everything, even a difficult marriage that brought consistent strife and hardship into our home.

Growing up I could not perceive the weight of her burden in managing eight children without the support of my father. I do however remember how she modeled her faith in God and the strength she received through prayer. Hearing her crying out to God one night for help in our tiny bathroom made a lasting impression on my heart. Supposing that we were all asleep I never told her that her pleas made it to my ears. Her faith was strengthened to endure through prayer.

Her prayers brought much-needed provision, protection and purpose in the midst of so much insecurity growing up. Her prayers brought salvation to our souls as well. It was Mother’s Day 47 years ago when I and my siblings made our way to the altar to accept Christ as our Savior. It was a result of a mother’s prayer.

“Pray about everything,” she used to tell me all the time. Now that I am a mother I know firsthand that her words were wisdom coming through the fruit of a praying life. As my mother prayed over her children and household so shall I. In cultivating a praying heart God has blessed my family with provision, protection and purpose.

I am the fruit of a mother’s prayer.

“…pray without ceasing…” (1Thessalonians 5:17)

Truth

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“What is truth?” This is one of the most important questions of the ages. It was asked of Jesus by Pilot, the governor of Judea over 2000 years ago and still resonates in hearts today. (John 18:38)

Truth is sought sincerely early in life but it seems that once life complications set in (through influential relationships or circumstances) we are easily swayed into forming our own truth. Not realizing that our truth can never acclaim to the height, depth and width of God’s truth we sabotage our future potential and impact the outcomes that we were created and designed to have. Our version of truth becomes as natural to us as breathing and we miss out on God’s best for our lives and fulfilling His purpose.

Our form of truth is not liberating, it leads to a fear based bondage. Real truth is found in God Word.

“The sum of Your word is truth…” (Psalm 119:160)

Jesus said

“I am…the truth…” (John 14:6)

Jesus also said

“For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world — to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to My voice.” (John 18:37)

Truth is found in Jesus. In receiving Jesus we receive truth. Once we enter into truth our ears are opened to listen to Jesus’ voice. Then and only then are our hearts satisfied, we have found truth and the empowerment to build a life based on truth and the freedom to enjoy a blessed life!

Jesus said

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6)