Christmas is Coming: Why We Celebrate

why-we-celebrate

Inspirational Thought of the Day:

The purpose of Christmas really is to reveal this Christ – this loving God to as many people who will receive Him.

Scripture of the Day:

Luke 1:1-3

1 “Now many have undertaken to compile an account  of the things that have been fulfilled among us, 2 like the accounts  passed on to us by those who were eyewitnesses and servants of the word from the beginning. 3 So it seemed good to me as well, because I have followed all things carefully from the beginning, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4 so that you may know for certain the things you were taught.”

Each year Christmas comes and goes faster than I can truly grasp the significance of the day we celebrate.  For months, stores are donning their Christmas garb and retailers making money off of the many things tantalizing us with the prescribed necessities to properly celebrate the event.  Yet inwardly I wonder if I am missing it completely.  There are cultural icons we attribute to America’s celebration of Christmas, and some of them are not all that bad, but do they trivialize the most important date in the world, when God came in the flesh and revealed Himself to man?  Our calendars and our homes reflect the importance of this day year after year, but may our hearts never grow numb to the thrill of what His birth meant.

Luke’s account begins with a unique prologue which is different from the other synoptic Gospels.  Luke was the only gentile to pen a book in the new testament, and he is writing to the Gentiles and someone specifically – Theophilus – so that he would believe and know that the birth and life of Christ were true.  I confess that I forget at times what the purpose of Christmas really is – to reveal this Christ – this loving God to as many people who will receive Him.  That is the greatest gift I can truly ever give another soul.  It is this purpose that truly keeps the Christmas spirit alive – never growing weary of the amazing gift of God and sharing it in new ways to those who know God and some who maybe have not come to know Him yet.

So what about all of the traditions of Christmas?  I can get distracted by one tradition of Christmas in particular – the giving of gifts.  This tradition is of course embraced by me, since my love language is gift giving.  (Insert smile).  It is even considered a godly thing to do and more special when it is given thoughtfully and sacrificially.  Giving in such a manner reminds us of what Christ did when He lavishly gave His own life, leaving His comforts in Heaven and dwelling among men, instead.  It can also hinder my celebrating Christmas, though, if I become so stressed and hurried with all of the preparations.

Some might have a tree in their home, others like snowmen and stockings.  These have nothing to do with Christ, but they have come to be a part of what Christmas means in our culture.  There is no judgment in these things, but they can also serve to hinder our worship of the King, if that is what we are seeking to celebrate.  Ultimately, one man considers another day more special than another and the celebration of any holiday on this earth that is not mandated from Scripture is something that ought to be done in a way that honors God – thoughtfully.  There are not rules in Scripture governing do’s and dont’s of how to celebrate Christmas, but their are principles that govern each day we live.  Being cognizant of what we believe and why gives meaning to our lives.

Back to Luke.  It is not known for sure who this Theophilus is, but it is intriguing to me that his name literally means “friend or lover of God”. Luke wanted to make sure Theophilus knew the Gospel was trustworthy, and I wonder if it was he who called him a friend of God.  When a soul is saved, that soul cannot help but be compelled to share with others the amazing gift of salvation.  We must do so in the same vain as Luke did – share the story of Jesus and His impact on our lives like a friend would.  Luke knew the details well and was exact in his account, but He was driven by a passion that others might not miss this greatest gift of all.

Each of the four Gospels is a testimony of the events surrounding Christ’s birth, life, death and resurrection – a witness of each of the author’s eyewitness of the life of Christ.  So we each have a testimony of how we, too, met Jesus.  What was it that first opened our eyes?  Do we tell our story passionately so others might know it to be true?  Personal testimony is far more convincing when that person experienced personally what they are telling you; they are not just talking about someone else.  Each testimony is unique to the individual, because each of us has our own relationship with God, and each story of our individual encounters with Christ need to be told.

This Christmas season, may we be ignited with a fresh passion to share Christ and what He accomplished in his birth, death and resurrection.  May we once again look with wonder on the god-man infant, cradled in a crude, rustic environment, prophesied from long ago.  As we look to the coming celebration of Christ’s initial coming, may we be equally stirred to look to His second coming and tell His story and share it with strangers, friends and families far and wide.  It is the greatest true story ever told.

Lord, we eagerly look to commemorate your coming to this earth as well as when You will come again.  Help us to remember what You did for each one of us and to never cease sharing your offering of Your life for our sins.

Thoughtful Thursday: Our Transcendent God

Photo Credits: lightandlifewomensbiblestudy.blogspot.com

Photo Credits:
lightandlifewomensbiblestudy.blogspot.com

Jeremiah 23:23-24 (NET)

23 “Do you people think that I am some local deity and not the transcendent God?” the LORD asks.  24 “Do you really think anyone can hide himself where I cannot see him?” the LORD asks. “Do you not know that I am everywhere?” the LORD asks.

Isaiah 55:8 (NET)

8 “Indeed, my plans are not like your plans, and my deeds are not like your deeds, 9 for just as the sky is higher than the earth, so my deeds are superior to your deeds and my plans superior to your plans.”

Job 11:7 (ESV)

“Can you find out the deep things of God? Can you find out the limit of the Almighty?”

Romans 11:33-36 (NET)

33 “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how fathomless his ways! 34 For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? 35 Or who has first given to God, that God needs to repay him? 36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever! Amen.

Psalm 113:5-6

Who can compare to the LORD our God, who sits on a high throne? 6 He bends down to look at the sky and the earth.”

John 8:23

“Jesus replied, “You people are from below; I am from above. You people are from this world; I am not from this world.””

How do I even begin to write about God’s greatness?  How is it that such grace has come to us that we can know Him? Today I am struck by how much higher His ways and thoughts are from ours.  We do not even recognize how small and needful we are, apart from His grace and the Holy Spirit revealing our soul’s heart cry for someone greater than ourselves.

Fans of movie stars are in awe at the sight of what they consider greatness, but those stars are merely creations. So many things in this world grab our attention and worship, but none of them are truly worth such devotion.  Only our living God is worthy of such respect.  We worship a God Who is greater than us – truly worthy of our worship.

All at once we are undone that God can see into our inmost soul – our thoughts before we conceive them, our motivations, our every action.  To be so known and yet accepted by a Holy God is too much too completely comprehend.

How do we know this awesome God, whose face we cannot behold, lest we perish?  Whose presence cannot be contained?  Whose Holiness is so foreign to our fleshly mortality?  Who is sovereign over all activity on earth?  Who, in His genius designed every aspect of creation down to the smallest particle?  Who is Omniscient, knowing all?  Who is outside time?  Who has always been?  Who would establish righteous laws and then fulfill them by choosing to come live among a corrupt, spiritually bankrupt people and lay His life down for them?

This mystery of God’s revelation of Himself to us is miraculous and not able to be fully understood.  Our eyes were blind to His supremacy and our need of Him until He drew us to Himself and caused us to understand.

How beyond words is the fact that we are invited, finite and poor, to fellowship with the Holy One, the Omnipresent and beyond the highest riches – our transcendent God.  But why does His transcendence matter?  Because we were made to worship and though we are easily fascinated with substitutes trying to fill that vacuum, our inmost being longs to worship Someone higher than ourselves.

When we consider a God that is not easily defined or understood, a sense of awe is pervasive within our souls.  To pause and seek what truly matters and to worship the One Who is, Who was, and Who is to come, we are worshiping the One Who is higher than any other entity on this earth for all eternity.  It is in worshiping the Almighty God, the Creator of this universe, that we are doing what we were made to do and find our greatest joy and sense of purpose.  Worshiping the Only One Who is awesome and far above us causes us to rise out of what is perceived as an ordinary life and see the spiritual realities all around us.  It is in worshiping our transcendent God that we are enabled to live in a way which glorifies our Maker and transcends ourselves beyond merely living for the here and now.

Lord, You are awesome, Holy, so much higher than us.  Thank You for drawing us to Yourself. Help us to know You more and to worship You with sincere hearts, lost in Your greatness and found by You.  Give us understanding about how great You are that we would never stray from You. 

Thoughtful Thursday: Hidden Treasure – Our Prized Possession

Proverbs 7:1-2

“My child, keep my words and treasure up my commands in your own keeping.  2 Keep my commands so that you may live, and obey my instruction as your most prized possession.”

Proverbs 2:4-5

“If you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.”

Luke 12:34

“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

Colossians 2:2-3

“My goal is that their hearts, having been knit together in love, may be encouraged, and that they may have all the riches that assurance brings in their understanding of the knowledge of the mystery of God, namely, Christ,  3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”

We can go our entire lives searching for treasure – what our hearts long for.  Yet all the while it is right in front of us, sitting on a shelf, gathering dust.

Imagine finding a treasure and looking at it and taking just one piece of the treasure out, then leaving it there.  The treasure would not benefit us and would not be shared with anyone else, either.  In this fast-paced world, we can step over the greatest treasure and miss it, if we are not careful.

What are the various gems in this treasure chest?  Understanding.  Why is it that our eyes were opened to be able to comprehend what God has done?  Knowledge.  Adding to our understanding, more and more knowledge of Him and the ability to see our sins and His grace.  Wisdom. Knowledge applied and used for God’s glory.  Peace. Souls at rest no matter what is transpiring around us.  Salvation.  The penalty for our sins removed – our guilt stains washed away! Communion with God. being able to fellowship with Jesus and go to Him anytime.  Forgiveness.  All of our guilt washed away.  Grace.  Strength to live for Jesus.  Healing.  Changed hearts and minds yielded to Him, delivered from the burdens of this world.  Assurance.  The sweetest jewel – assurance that we will be with Him for all eternity lasts longer than any temporary treasure on this earth.

On and on the precious gems to be found.  To some the Bible is a book of rules, void of life.  To those who have recognized it’s worth, it is the greatest gift God has given to us.  Boundaries set to free us, counsel to comfort us, His word a lamp to guide us.

To be able to know the God of this universe and fellowship with Him is the greatest treasure given to mankind, but often we accept what is more tangible as a substitute and miss out on the gold He has for us.  No where else will we be able to find such a treasure, that supplies all our needs to each individual.

Lord, we delight in You!  Thank You for the treasure of Your most precious Son!  Help us to seek You without ceasing and to daily,moment by moment bask in your Word.

Weapons of Warfare

Photo Credits: covenantpromises.org

Photo Credits:
covenantpromises.org

2 Corinthians 10:3-5

“For though we live as human beingswe do not wage war according to human standards4 for the weapons of our warfare are not human weaponsbut are made powerful by God for tearing down strongholds.  We tear down arguments  5 and every arrogant obstacle that is raised up against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive to make it obey Christ.”

2 Timothy 2:23-25

But reject foolish and ignorant controversies, because you know they breed infighting.  24 And the Lord’s slave must not engage in heated disputes but be kind toward all, an apt teacher, patient,  25 correcting opponents with gentleness. Perhaps God will grant them repentance and then knowledge of the truth.

2 Corinthians 10:4

“The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.”

Isaiah 54:17

“No weapon forged to be used against you will succeed; you will refute everyone who tries to accuse you. This is what the LORD will do for his servants–I will vindicate them,” says the LORD.”

It is difficult to live in this body of flesh and live for the LORD.  Fatigue and worldliness creep in easily if we are not watchful. Sometimes I can be lulled into a false perspective that being Christian is to be “nice” and flexible, tolerant of everyone and everything.  I can become disillusioned when I think salvation is equated to being loved by all and living a trouble-free life.

While we are called to love everyone, that does not mean we should expect reciprocation.  It also does not mean that we ought to condone sinful lifestyles or give in to the philosophies of this world.  Paul, who had previously zealously persecuted Christians, was a fighter.  He knew that to be faithful to God meant to be vigilant with our thoughts, faithful to seek God and spread His word.  He recognized that this Christian walk is a battle and he armed himself for the task at hand.

But we all do not have personalities like Paul.  I confess that I am naturally a shy person and a peacemaker.  I would rather avoid conflict, but sometimes it is necessary.  On one hand, I will not seek it out and waste energy on controversial arguments, but on the other hand, I want to be ready at all times to give an answer when someone is truly seeking.

Timothy strikes me as a more gentle soul, wanting to shepherd those around him, but equally as faithful to disseminate the word of God.  I love his heart to keep what really matters in perspective – winning one precious soul with gentle correction. It wasn’t about being right, but about caring for the other person enough to be unpopular with them while the truth was lovingly shared.

We have all perhaps seen hostile arguments over faith and even tearing down of fellow believers because their style or personality was different.  We might have even done so ourselves.  These are not the weapons we are to use as believers. Pride and vanity can cloud our view and cause us to see things from a merely human point-of-view, but love can clear the fog.  Not the world’s definition of love, but God’s Agape, unconditional love, which speaks the truth completely in love.

Boldness from God consumes me and causes me to see my need of God and to fulfill the calling He has on my life.  I just want to be faithful.  Sometimes we can be about the work of God and suddenly find ourselves under attack.  (Which, by the way, should not surprise us, but being that my short term memory is lessened a great deal, I am surprised every time).

Even fellow believers can nip at our heels and judge the work we are doing in the LORD.  What weapons should be use in our arsenal?  Prayer.  Forgiveness.  Love.  When persecution or judgments arise, they are opportunities to walk after the Spirit and not the flesh; to cry out to God, not man; to read His Word and apply it in our lives.

The stumbling blocks of fear and self-preservation can inhibit us from using the weapons God prescribes for use in spiritual battle and from trusting in God to fight for us.  He is our Deliverer and able to accomplish far more than we ever could with our human tools.  His weapons are not of this world and the battles we face are not, either.

Lord, thank you for being our Defender.  Help us to recognize that every we battle we face in this life is a spiritual encounter, not a physical, fleshly one.  You have overcome all!  Help us to use the weapons You have given us, that many will be saved and healed.

The Goal of Selflessness

Photo Credits: followpics.co

Photo Credits:
followpics.co

Genesis 44:33-34

“So now, please let your servant remain as my lord’s slave instead of the boy. As for the boy, let him go back with his brothers.  For how can I go back to my father if the boy is not with me? I couldn’t bear to see my father’s pain.”

Philippians 2:4

“Each of you should be concerned not only about your own interests, but about the interests of others as well.”

2 Corinthians 6:3

“We do not give anyone an occasion for taking an offense in anything, so that no fault may be found with our ministry.”

What a beautiful picture this is of selflessness.  Although Judah had spared his brother’s life before by suggesting they sell Joseph into slavery rather than killing him, Judah had finally seen that his former jealousy hurt others.  He had robbed his father of a son and was now willing to take the place of another brother, rather than see his father suffer anymore.

Jealousy is an ugly thing.  Striving for favor instead of being content with what God has provided is prideful.  Condemning others as if we hold the one correct view is sinful, yet we do this even in the body of Christ.  Why?  Self preservation. Defending self when we have been unfairly judged is understandable, but is it really the highest goal?  I know, I know. More death to self.  Ugh.  I feel it, too.

Don’t worry – dying to self does not mean we do not matter.  Biblically, we are to be concerned about our own lives, as well, but not myopically focused on self alone.  Deference hurts, especially when you have been wronged, but ultimately not one of us is always in the right.  Seeking God’s glory in the matter is paramount and helps to clear up our vision.

As we all want to have people believe the best in us, so must we extend this grace.  The church is a place where people should not be condemned for being imperfect, for we would all be condemned then.  As Christians, we cannot think that we are better than our fellow brother or sister.  No, we are all in the trenches side by side, working out character and sharing the Gospel.  Instead, humility and grace lived out and generously bestowed is demonstrated by loving one another in the face of rejection and hurt.  God help us to do so.

This weary world always has some new drama to unfold; someone who is not happy with you, or someone wanting “our” position.  But when we see everything we have as not ours in the first place, we have no need to defend self or hang onto anything.  Since we are hidden in Christ, He is our Defender and ultimately the harm others do to us is not to us at all.

Lord, help us to seek the best for others and favor them above ourselves.  May we be sensitive about Your Name being glorified by how we live and not as sensitive about ours.  Everything You have given us to do is about You. 

Unequal “Yokedom” and Keeping Our Children’s Hearts

Photo Credits: My son Sam

Photo Credits:
My son Sam

Genesis 28:1-7

28:1 So Isaac called for Jacob and blessed him. Then he commanded him, “You must not marry a Canaanite woman2 Leave immediately for Paddan Aram! Go to the house of Bethuel, your mother’s father, and find yourself a wife there, among the daughters of Laban, your mother’s brother. 3 May the sovereign God bless you! May he make you fruitful and give you a multitude of descendants!  Then you will become a large nation4 May he give you and your descendants the blessing he gave to Abraham so that you may possess the land God gave to Abraham, the land where you have been living as a temporary resident.” 5 So Isaac sent Jacob on his way, and he went to Paddan Aram, to Laban son of Bethuel the Aramean and brother of Rebekah, the mother of Jacob and Esau.  6 Esau saw that Isaac had blessed Jacob and sent him off to Paddan Aram to find a wife there. As he blessed him, Isaac commanded him, “You must not marry a Canaanite woman.” 7Jacob obeyed his father and mother and left for Paddan Aram.

2 Corinthians 6:14-18

“Do not become partners with those who do not believe, for what partnership is there between righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship does light have with darkness? 15 And what agreement does Christ have with Beliar? Or what does a believer share in common with an unbeliever? 16 And what mutual agreement does the temple of God have with idols? For we are the temple of the living God, just as God said, “I will live in them and will walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.” 17 Thereforecome out from their midst, and be separate,” says the Lord, “and touch no unclean thing, and I will welcome you, 18 and I will be a father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters,” says the All-Powerful Lord.”

Ok, so we are not cattle and it might seem a bit archaic to still use the terminology “yoked”.  Perhaps another analogy would serve today’s generation better, nonetheless our souls confirm this truth.  It was not a racial slur when Jacob’s parents were opposed to Jacob marrying a Caananite woman.  They knew that Jacob’s heart could be turned away from following the living God by marrying an unbelieving spouse.  This is not just a principle for the Old Testament.  I fear in our day of tolerance and relevance that we have lost touch with the truth that God’s word never changes and His principles still stand, no matter how sophisticated or independent we think we’ve become.

I have three daughters and two sons that God has blessed me with.  Later in life, He also brought a step-daughter into my life.  When God enabled me to be a parent, my greatest heart’s desire was that I would be faithful to raise them in the LORD.  God was seeking godly offspring when He chose Abraham and when He chose us.  These children He has given are truly His.  Being charged with guarding their hearts and guiding them in Christ has been a challenging task, indeed, but it is worth it.

Suitors are now coming to call and the foundation that was laid all of these years is holding, by the grace of God.  It is not easy, and I, too, can easily falter if it were not for the compass I hold in my hand each day – the Bible.  You see, the philosophy of this day and age is to minimize the authority that parents have in their children’s lives.  It is viewed as old-fashioned.  So be it.  The role God gave parents is one He holds them accountable for, and that truth, coupled with the fear of the LORD, keeps me seeking God for His choice, not mine, in my children’s lives.

Worldliness is easy.  It is so woven into all of society, even in Christian places, that we can become dumbed down and not detect it anymore.  It is so hard to keep our hearts, let alone our children’s.  If I put my oxygen mask (the Bible) on each day, I am able to see clearly enough to place it on my children, but this also requires discipline and consistency in my life.

It starts when they are young.  Even when my children were first able to understand, I shared with them God’s word and how it differed from the world around us.  At that time I told them we were not going to follow the customs of the culture around us, including dating at a young age.  The follow up to that standard never relents and must not just be a legalistic mantra.  Godly standards flowing from genuine conviction breathe life, not rebellion.

This morning, my 10-year-old son knew I was not to be interrupted during my devotion time.  It is still so hard for him to not do so. Instead, he got his Bible out and read beside me and drew a picture from his devotion time, which I used for today’s blog. These moments are precious, but we cannot rest in them.  We have to keep building on this foundation and remind our kids that the faith they were taught has to become their own.

Back to my daughters.  Young men are now coming, asking to date or court my two oldest – pesky thing it is, them growing up.  Trying to walk the line of counseling my daughters and letting them make decisions is difficult, to say the least.  True character is shown soon enough, though, whether a young man will respect the parent’s place in the young woman’s life whom he admires, or whether he will secretly attempt to subvert the authority God has placed in my daughter’s lives.

We did not permit dating or courtship until they were 18 and have certainly been judged for doing so.  No regrets here. This past week I had the joy of having a godly young man inquire after one of my daughters.  They have been friends for a year and a half and walked through this process beautifully.  Moments like this make it all worth it.  Suitors can lie, manipulate and couch their professions of love in “Christianese”, but the Holy Spirit is able to guide important life decisions.  We just have to be seeking and listening.  True character is shown in time – we just must be vigilant!

My older son is a couple of years away from adulthood now.  Completely different and also much the same.  The principles of purity and guarding our hearts have been laid as groundwork since before he could first understand those words.  May he and his younger brother continue to walk in God’s ways and seek a righteous wife someday, for even the wisest man, Solomon, had wives turn his heart away from God toward worthless things.

Although Jacob might have easily disregarded his parent’s counsel, he did not.  He chose to obey and was rewarded for it. He had his own past of deceit and maybe learned from it.  My prayer is that my children will continue to choose the path of following God, but that will be their decision.  I am blessed to say that they are walking with God, but the spiritual battle for all of our children’s hearts is waged daily.  We have experienced firsthand how the disobedience of one person caused incredible pain and horrific consequences in our lives.  We do not want to walk that path again.

We never arrive as parents and never are done inspiring our children to love God.  The costs are just too high, and future generations are counting on the faithfulness of us right now.  We cannot become trapped in cultural pressure or fads.  Even terminology can become an idol – dating or courtship.  Choices lie before us all each day.  What we choose impacts those who follow behind us.  I choose by the grace of God blessing and not a curse – walking in obedience over rebellion, life over death.  What say you?

Lord, thank you for saving me and showing me the need for discipleship of the children You have given.  When I fall short, LORD, protect their hearts and enable us to follow hard after You, for You are our life!

Scriptural Sunday: We Have the Mind of Christ

Photo Credits: christintheclouds.blogspot.com

Photo Credits:
christintheclouds.blogspot.com

1 Corinthians 2:9-10

“But just as it is written, “Things that no eye has seen, or ear heard, or mind imagined, are the things God has prepared for those who love him.”  God has revealed these to us by the Spirit.  For the Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.”  11 For who among men knows the things of a man except the man’s spirit within him? So too, no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God.12 Now we have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things that are freely given to us by God. 13 And we speak about these things, not with words taught us by human wisdom, but with those taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual things to spiritual people. 14 The unbeliever does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him. And he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The one who is spiritual discerns all things, yet he himself is understood by no one. 16 For who has known the mind of the Lord, so as to advise him?   But we have the mind of Christ.”

Philippians 2:5

“Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.”

2 Timothy 1:7

“For God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”

On Sundays, I want to simply share Scripture and a prayer from my devotion time to reflect on.

Lord, what is man, that You would give us Your Spirit and reveal deep mysteries to us?  That You would grant us the mind of Christ?  Wow.  We cannot understand the simplest words from Your Word without You mercifully opening our eyes. We are humbled, oh God, by Your kindness.  We are blessed to have seen any revelation from You.

Lord, help us to fill our mind with only what pleases You, to choose to dwell on thoughts that bring You glory.  Thank You for opening our eyes to see and to know You!

Worshipful Wednesday: Fickle Emotions & Delighting in God!

Photo Credits jedipastorken.blogspot.com

Photo Credits
jedipastorken.blogspot.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

Psalm 21:6

“For you grant him lasting blessingsyou give him great joy by allowing him into your presence.”

Jeremiah 9:23-24

23 “The Lord says, “Wise people should not boast that they are wisePowerful people should not boast that they are powerful. Rich people should not boast that they are rich. 24 If people want to boast, they should boast about thisThey should boast that they understand and know me. They should boast that they know and understand that I, the Lord, act out of faithfulness, fairness, and justice in the earth and that I desire people to do these things,” says the Lord.”

Psalm 16:11

11 You lead me in the path of life; I experience absolute joy in your presenceyou always give me sheer delight.

We tend to be a fickle bunch.  Enamored by people with fame, as if they are superhuman, we can neglect the obviously greatest gift right in front of us.  Human affection can fade over time.  The once charming quirks can become stale annoyances, to those who have forgotten to cherish the gift in the relationships that God has given.  The love that was once so ardent can lose its joy and be replaced with dutiful care, if it is not guarded, nourished and recognized.

So it is with our relationship with God.  We forget how amazing He is and trade His majesty for counterfeits that were never meant to bring lasting joy.  Reflecting on what we have delighted in formerly can help to stir the praise that God is so worthy of and also serve in our human relationships, as well.  Gratitude for all that God does for us daily is another catalyst for genuine love, admiration and delight.

God made us – ok, this is an obvious one, but do we thank Him daily for our mere presence?  Life is an astounding gift and the fact that He made us each unique in His image, all for His glory ought to amaze us.  Every little detail that went into making each one of us is so far beyond human intellect could ever design.  But He went beyond that and bore all of our sins, too.  What kind of God would provide such loving care and thoughtfulness?

The Psalmist experienced absolute (complete) joy in God’s presence.  I want that kind of life in my relationship with God ALL the time.  Just like we need to invest in our earthly relationships to derive more fulfillment, more time with God is where we become closer.  Contemplating all he has done and His perfect, Holy character helps develop worship that is due Him.  Maybe now is a good time to do so.

What kind of God is He?  Holy, long-suffering, merciful, kind, all-knowing, our Healer, our Redeemer, our Savior, forgiving, loving, the God Who sees and hears, who chose us in Him before the foundations of all the earth!  Oh, and the one who made every aspect of the creation that surrounds us.  My heart is stirred this morning to consider that just to be allowed into His presence is enough, but then He fills us with insight and wisdom and unconditionally loves us.  I am overwhelmed by a God like that.

Lord, help us to quiet the noise all around us and reflect on Your beauty.  You are more than I could ever describe or give adequate worth to.  May we pause and glorify You throughout the day in each moment.  Thank you that we can come to You!

The Devil’s in the Details

Judges 8:22-27

22 The men of Israel said to Gideon, “Rule over us – you, your son, and your grandson. For you have delivered us from Midian’s power.” 23 Gideon said to them, “I will not rule over you, nor will my son rule over you. The Lord will rule over you.” 24 Gideon continued, “I would like to make one request. Each of you give me an earring from the plunder you have taken.” (The Midianites had gold earrings because they were Ishmaelites.) 25 They said, “We are happy to give you earrings.” So they spread out a garment, and each one threw an earring from his plunder onto it.26 The total weight of the gold earrings he requested came to seventeen hundred gold shekels. This was in addition to the crescent-shaped ornaments, jewelry, purple clothing worn by the Midianite kings, and the necklaces on the camels. 27 Gideon used all this to make an ephod, which he put in his hometown of Ophrah. All the Israelites prostituted themselves to it by worshiping it there. It became a snare to Gideon and his family.

When presented with people wanting to hail him as their king and leader, Gideon did not crave power – instead, he wanted God alone to rule His people.  God had led Gideon successfully to defeat the Midianites (Ishmael’s descendants).  15,000 Midianite men against 300 Israelites, armed with trumpets, clay pots and torches.  A God like that was the only One Gideon wanted to lead His people.  He rightly knew that he was not the one who led God’s people – God was.  Gideon followed God and was blessed for this obedience.

I love the humility of Gideon here, and yet, directly after he professed so beautifully that God alone was the true King, he stumbled.  Right after seeing an amazing deliverance where God told him ahead of time about His deliverance and fulfilled it, Gideon got sidetracked.  A little decision to make a simple relic destroyed his pure devotion and the devotion of ALL the Israelites to their living, One true God.  How sad.

An ephod was not necessarily sinful; in fact, historically it was part of the high priest’s garment, which had a breastpiece overlaid, containing the Urim and the Thummim, used for obtaining oracles from the LORD.  This ephod designed by Gideon, however, was not made in the same manner or with the same elements.  It was not used as a priestly garment, but was instead used as an item of worship, kept in Gideon’s own home.  Gideon had been insecure about whether or not God would use him in the past.  I wonder if Gideon considered seeking divination from a relic instead?

Even more striking to consider is the crescent-shaped ornaments that Gideon was enamored by.  These ornaments are a foreshadowing of modern-day Islamic iconic symbols, reminding us of Sarah and Abraham’s choice to take matters into their own hands, when they tried to bring about God’s promise through Ishmael. That one decision, made in a sea of right decisions, is the very source of the catastrophic attacks on God’s people today, played out on the world stage.  Think about that.

God help us to consider not just the vast decisions that lay before us, but the small ones, too.  The failure of a saint does not always have to be a big glaring sin.  It is often in the subtle, hidden places where our enemy lurks to see if we are paying attention.  May we care about motives and diligently seek God to walk blamelessly before Him.  Those who follow behind us will be impacted, too.  Will we surrender over every aspect of our lives to obedience to God, or hold back a portion that seems insignificant?

Lord, thank you for revealing our sins, that we might confess them to You!  Thank You for your mighty deliverance.  Help us to not take Your salvation for granted and to be aware of the enemy’s tactics, seeking You in all things.