Mundane Monday: The Calling of Christmas

the-same-god-who-intervened-in-time-and-came-in-the-flesh-is-calling-us-to-participate-in-the-christmas-story-too-2

Inspirational Thought of the Day:

The same God Who came in the flesh is calling us to participate in the Christmas story, too.

Scriptures of the Day:

2 Peter 1:10

“Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble.”

2 Timothy 1:9-10

“He is the one who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not based on our works but on his own purpose and grace, granted to us in Christ Jesus before time began, 10 but now made visible through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus. He has broken the power of death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel!”

We are doing a series at our church during this Christmas season on the calling of God on His people. The same God Who intervened in time and came in the flesh is calling us to participate in the Christmas story, too. Will we be like those who gathered around to adore Him, like those who proclaimed His birth, or will we miss this opportunity altogether?

As a mom, I can get focused on all of the details of buying gifts for my 5 children and all of the aspects of the holiday celebration that I begin to lose perspective. As a wife, I am thinking about how to honor my husband in the purchases and bless him, too. As a worship leader, I am focused on provoking my church to worship God passionately during this Holy season. So many things to be done and so many hearts to affect with the Gospel. But we can’t allow the busyness of the season to hinder the vision God wants us to have for His work and His people – at Christmas and for all of time.

As we remember what God did when he demonstrated His radical love by leaving His throne in Heaven to allow mankind to provide care for Him, God stirs our hearts to respond to this amazing show of His affection for us. To make Himself that vulnerable, entrusting Himself to a wicked people – what lengths God went to in order to reach us with His love – how can we share this love with those around us?

For years my children and I would bake cookies for our entire neighborhood, then go and carol while we gave them out. Violins and guitars were sometimes in tow. We were cold, it was a lot of work, but the joy it brought others as well as ourselves was unmatched. The classical children’s choir I directed would go to nursing homes, raise gifts for local orphanages and sing to encourage others. Sweet times, indeed.

New seasons bring new opportunities and new ways to serve. In all our roles that we serve in on this earth, the greatest is as a child of God. How can we be His vessel today? What mission has He given to us?

What lengths can we go to this Christmas to reach people with the love of God? This is our calling. It might be uncomfortable. It might mean laying down our agendas or doing something different than our tradition (ah, the sacred cow). But when we are motivated by the love of God and give selflessly, we get just a glimpse of what God did for us and our joy is complete.

Thoughtful Thursday: Opportunity Knocks

Opportunity is Knocking

Inspirational Thought of the Day:

 

Luke 8:10

“He said, ‘You have been given the opportunity to know the secrets of the kingdom of God, but for others they are in parables, so that although they see they may not see, and although they hear they may not understand.'”

“Knock, knock.” “Who’s there?”

Don’t worry, I won’t tell a cheesy knock knock joke. Had you wondering, though, huh?

Opportunity is a funny thing. We long for opportunities but often do not even recognize them. We hope to be used by God to do something amazing but miss astounding promise all around us, dubbed as “ordinary”.

We can feel it in the thump of our heartbeat. Hear it in the soul’s cry. Sense it with our Spirit. Somewhere within us is a sense of a calling. Opportunity is knocking on the door of our soul – wondering if we hear our Master’s call for us to see the longing around us.

The moment we are awakened to hear and to understand God’s word, we are on mission. Entrusted with secrets that God has revealed, do we pretend not to see the needs, the hurts, the deadness in their eyes? Maybe in our own?

Growing up, I always felt special when someone trusted me with a precious secret or a position of leadership. Those who Christ has revealed His Gospel are the most blessed people on the face of the earth. We hold the keys to salvation and the opportunity to share it with lost people who we once were identified with.

The resounding knock stirs our souls to act on the knowledge and insight we have been given. The world’s din can try to silence the relentless needs and opportunities, but if we listen carefully, we will hear the knocks and answer. The souls God has called us to reach around us are counting on it.

Lord, help us to hear the needs around us and to listen attentively to Your word so that we might share what is on Your heart.

Freedom Friday: Gospel Across Cultures

freedom-in-christ-still.jpg

Inspirational Thought of the Day:

The hand of God is moving the people of this world so that they may hear of His great love.

Scripture of the Day:

Exodus 23:32-33

“You must make no covenant with them or with their gods. 33 They must not live in your land, lest they make you sin against me, for if you serve their gods, it will surely be a snare to you.”

The nations have been brought to our doorstep – the beautiful melting pot of the United States. Nations that did not have the same freedoms in their own homeland can now have access to the freedom in our land – for such time as this.

The tremendous blessings of having such a diverse culture are many, but there are also many dangers. Primary among the flaws of such a culture is the possibility of adopting false gods. God sought to protect Israel from such idolatry and in our desire to accept all people, we must guard our hearts from the same danger to our faith.

We are called to love all people, yet not embrace their gods. They have been brought to our home and we have an opportunity like no other time in history to reach these people with the love of Christ. People who could not formerly hear the good news in their country are now free to do so. People who could not share the Gospel in their culture now can.

What a sovereign God who would use all circumstances in our times to bring people to Himself. May we be faithful to spread the freedom we have found in Christ to all who come to our land. The fields are ripe.

Lord, You are amazing! Thank You for drawing people near to You. Help us to be Your hands and feet, propagating the Gospel to anyone who has ears to hear.

 

 

Truthful Tuesday: True Repentance

True Repentance

Image from Closerdaybyday.org

Inspirational Thought of the Day:

We live in a unique time today in the politically correct society that tolerates all sin, but judges the righteous…

Scripture:

2 Corinthians 7:9-11

“Now I rejoice, not because you were made sad, but because you were made sad to the point of repentance. For you were made sad as God intended, so that you were not harmed in any way by us. 10 For sadness as intended by God produces a repentance that leads to salvation, leaving no regret, but worldly sadness brings about death. 11 For see what this very thing, this sadness as God intended, has produced in you: what eagerness, what defense of yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what deep concern, what punishment! In everything you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter.”

While we as Christians are called not to judge one another, for we are all equally sinful, we are also called to gently correct one another when we see sin in our lives. Sin – that death threat to our spiritual walk with God. Who wouldn’t want that gone?

But sometimes we live in fear of offending someone, even though they are trapped in their sin. The message of the Gospel has the power to deliver one from the bondage of sin and bring true joy into their lives, but we often shrink back because it might hurt them or their feelings. Not really. We are afraid in actuality that they might not like us. So, instead of sharing the life-giving message of Christ’s resurrection and the forgiveness of our sins, we often keep the most amazing truth a secret, potentially damning people for all eternity.

I know. That was hard for me to hear, too. Today at a Chick-fil-a, a woman came up and handed me a napkin she had written upon. She wrote to tell me how astonished she was at the patience of my youngest child who sat while I worked for three hours. Divine appointment. Sometimes these moments are not convenient – wait, who am I kidding? They are never convenient. But we are perpetually on a mission, and those around us are the ones we are to reach.

If we dare to love people enough to share both the message of God’s punishment and forgiveness of sin, We just might witness one of the most beautiful things on this earth – true repentance – that moment when a soul recognizes their need of God and submits wholeheartedly to God’s loving rebuke and correction.

True repentance cannot be faked. It is a devastation over our sin and a turning away from that sin.  It is not the emotion of sorrow for being caught, but sorrow for hurting God and grateful for the instruction that opened our eyes in the first place.

Lord, help us to care about the souls all around us and to share Your message of hope and salvation. Bring divine appointments our way and help us to be Your faithful witnesses. The harvest is ripe – send us – and help us to yield, as well, when the revelation of sin knocks on the door of our own hearts, begging us to truly repent.

Mundane Monday: The Fruit of Faithfulness

Photo Credits: northwood.cc

Photo Credits:
northwood.cc

Galatians 2:16, 20

16 “Yet we know that no one is justified by the works of the law but by the faithfulness of Jesus Christ. And we have come to believe in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by the faithfulness of Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.  20  I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So the life I now live in the body, I live because of the faithfulness of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Galatians 3:22

“But the scripture imprisoned everything and everyone under sin so that the promise could be given–because of the faithfulness of Jesus Christ–to those who believe.”

1 Corinthians 4:2

“Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.”

Sometimes in the busyness of life it is difficult to be consistent and faithful to the calling of God.  We can make many plans, but carrying them out is another matter entirely.  It takes perseverance and fortitude, conviction and diligence.

Being faithful is not always convenient nor praised.  Often unnoticed as merely doing what is expected, it is not until a long pattern of faithfulness that the fruit of that endeavor is displayed in all its beauty.

This past week as I went to get my hair done, I hear the LORD whisper to my heart – “Denise, are you available”?  “Yes, LORD.  Use me for Your glory.”  As I walked into the hair salon, I was filled with anticipation – what divine appointment would God have planned?  A new cosmetologist greeted me and four hours later the LORD confirmed to both of us that this was a move of God.  She had been asking God for answers about homeschooling and Christianity.  All of the years of home educating and walking with God stood as a witness of faithfulness which bore witness to her.

All of the challenges and interruptions through the years did not matter in that moment.  Having pushed through failures and remaining in the calling of God now mattered to another soul who needed to see someone who had gone before and demonstrated faithfulness, only by the grace of God.  Not perfection, not always success in the world’s eyes, but staying on course in Christ.

Suddenly as I shared storied from 19 years of home educating, I realized afresh how blessed I was to have heard God’s calling and held fast to it.  So many times I had doubted my ability and felt inadequate with judgment all around me.  So many hurdles I had to overcome to stay on the path, but I clung to Christ and have indeed seen fruit that now testifies to others, as well.

This week I am stepping back into the music calling God has on my life.  It is humbling.  I am surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses who all are called to serve, as well.  Comparing is futile and seeking validation is, as well.  Each testimony is unique and cherished, a tool to be used faithfully to share the Gospel with the world.

Age or beauty are not as critical as character and the faithfulness of diligently preparing for the work of God.  We each have our own niche or calling that God has spoken to our hearts.  Maybe we have believed the doubts of our hearts or felt the expectations of others were meant for us.  Overcoming the mental objections and pressing on is where victory lies.

If Jesus had not been faithful, there would be no Gospel.  He chose to demonstrate to us what true faithfulness looks like. Selfless, resolute, humble.  This amazing truth we hold is not something merely for our edification – we are ambassadors and must be faithful in whatever position God has placed us in to share this cure for all that troubles the human soul.

Oh God!  We are servants of Your precious Word!  Please help us to be faithful stewards of Your truth and to refrain from distractions that pull us away from consistently serving You and Your Kingdom.

Christmas Countdown: Why we Celebrate

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.

The Strength of Weakness

Photo credits www.prweb.com

Photo credits http://www.prweb.com

Galatians 4:13

“But you know it was because of a physical illness that I first proclaimed the gospel to you, and though my physical condition put you to the test, you did not despise or reject me.”

Weakness.  Despised by our culture and not something to be proud of.  Yet it was physical infirmity that first propelled Paul to share the Gospel with the Galatians.  Paul’s weakness is not known – perhaps the recent stoning he was subjected to, or a sickness of some sort.  Either way, it was an uncomfortable distraction that God used.  God had chosen to use weak vessels before.  He even came as an infant Himself – the most fragile state of humanity, in a crude rustic dwelling.  Why?  It does not make sense to our sophisticated culture or ways that God, Who is Almighty God and Creator, would allow Himself to be taken care of by weak humans.

But the wisdom of God confounds our supposed insight and ways.  It seems to me that Paul could have done even more for the kingdom of God if he were physically well, but then sometimes when we operate in our own strength we do not see our need of God and take for granted the health we do have.  Sickness humbles you and that is a gift in disguise.  Oh, I know, I sound so pious saying it is a gift – surely I cannot mean it.  But it is, in fact, in the midst of some of the most humbling health challenges that I have felt the closest to God.  Now that makes it all worth it.  Add to that being able to help another soul struggling along because you have been there – incomparable to having a perfect pain-free life. 

Oh, sure, it hurts, and sometimes I wonder why.  But the struggle is part of living – the highs and lows, the joys, triumphs and sorrows.  Where would I know the comfort of God if it were not for those precious moments of deep pain?   Oh, I could wish that I would not have to feel the throbbing sting of impertinent diseases, but I trust my Savior’s hand, and I know that I know He will never let a trial or a pain go unused for my good and His glory.  I find myself in a similar situation as Paul. God still births songs and devotions in my heart to share with people, and simultaneously I am battling physical battles, as well.  I am not sure if autoimmune diseases were around in Paul’s time, but whatever affliction Paul had, it was significant and it affected him.  His illness made sharing the Gospel harder, but it was also a catalyst for his mission and the growth of the church in Galatia.

Why does God allow in sickness, hardship, things which are a stigma in our culture?  The rain falls on the good and the bad.  Now, I am not calling myself good – God calls righteous those who are covered by the blood of His Son.  If unbelievers see the rain falling on Christians, who turn around and praise God while it is raining, doesn’t that provide a beautiful display of God’s grace in the fire?  So it’s raining right now, and I am choosing to sing in the rain.  My body hurts and it makes it harder to do normal things, but I will praise His Name and look for His deliverance!  If you feel like you cannot keep going on, lean harder on Jesus and know that He is able to grant you strength beyond what you could ever imagine.  You never know, you might even find yourself doing something crazy like thanking Him for the very thing you despised.

Jehovah Rapha, I thank You that You are my Healer.  You have healed me before and I look to You again as my Healer – spiritually and physically.  I thank you for this thorn in my flesh and pray that You are honored and glorified in it.  Please help those who are hurting and doubting Your goodness when life is challenging.  Give them Your hope and joy.