Sunday, December 7, 2014

What Is This We Celebrate?

This Christmas season is upon us and again we are rushing around trying to find that perfect gift for those we love.  We see the ugliness of Black Friday unfold on our TV's as well as all the other fighting in our streets for many different reasons.  All the while decking our halls and trimming our trees.  Now don't get me wrong, anyone who knows me knows that I love to decorate for Christmas and wrap presents.  Our family Christmas is usually big with a capital B.  But this year I have really been reflecting on the "why" of Christmas.  Why has it become this mass spending spree?  Why has it become this mass revelry in stuff only to bring out the worst in all of us?  What is it that all of us really want?  This is my wish list.
 1.  I want peace.  Peace of mind in a crazy world.  Peace in my home and heart.  Peace in the world.
      But where is this peace found?  Is it found in those pretty presents under the tree, in gov't., in
      education, in anything this world has to offer?  No!  It is found only in one place.  It is in the one
      that the world says we do not need, the one that the world says does not exist.

2.  I want love.  But what is love?  Is it what I can get out of someone?  Is it what I can give
     someone?  I can not give what I do not have.  And no none truly has love unless they have
     the Creator of love.  So what does love look like?
                               "But He was pierced for our transgressions, and he was
                                 crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought
                                 us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are
                                 healed.  We all like sheep have gone astray, each of us
                                 has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on
                                 Him the iniquity of us all.
                                 He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open
                                 His mouth; He was led like a lamb to the slaughter.....
                                 For He was cut off from the land of the living; for the
                                 transgressions of my people He was stricken......
                                 Yet it was the LORD's will to crush Him and cause
                                 Him to suffer, and though the LORD makes His life
                                 a guilt offering, He will see the light of life and be
                                 satisfied."            Isaiah 53:5-7, 8,10
Love looks like a crucified Savior suffering a death that was meant for you and me.  An innocent man willingly stepping up to take my place, laying down His life for mine.

3.  I want joy.  But what is joy?  Is it being happy and having favorable circumstances?  Is it having
     the life that I think that I am entitled to?  No it is none of these things.  God's Word tells us that
     joy can be had in the mists of turmoil and upheaval.  Can it really?  Yes it can.  I don't know if I
     have words to describe what I mean.  It truly is just one of those things that must be experienced.
     It is not found in things, in other people, in gov't, in education, in demanding our rights, in
     exacting justice.  No, it is found in the quiet recesses of our hearts where only the Spirit of God
     can reach.  Those private places that not even we ourselves truly know.  That only God Himself
     can reveal if we are willing to see.  It's those root issues that He alone can treat.  It is being
     able to see beauty in the ashes.  It is being able to empathize with those who mistreat us.  It
     is being able to see another's true need, which happens to be the same as our own need.  Yes,
     joy is what I want.

4.  I want healing.  But what does healing look like?  Is it found in a pill or medical treatment?  Is
     it found in science?  No.  Healing does not look or feel like what we think it should.
     Healing comes in the form of death; death to ourselves and sometimes in physical death.  True
      healing of all ills seen and unseen comes in the form of surrender.  Surrendering our rights, our
      wants, our families, our very lives.  But surrender to what?  Surrender to God and His way.
       Agreeing with Him about ourselves and our heart condition which is black with sin.
     "What?  I will not!  I will do things my way!", you say. 
      That is the human condition from which we all need healing....SELFISHNESS!  And this
       is the healing that I want not only for myself, but for all.  You see, all this violence that
       we see played out on our TV's is nothing more than people acting on selfishness, demanding
       to have their own way at the expense of another.  Healing is what I want.  But where is true
       healing found? 

Where are all of my wishes found?  Only in Jesus Christ.  This baby that we as Christians celebrate and non-Christians try to negate.  This season that we usher in with fights at Walmart is not what this season is about.    The birth of Christ that is celebrated is the ushering in of the purpose of Christ which was to die on a wicked cross, naked, for sins that were not His.  He laid down His life for those who hated Him and still hate Him.  He rose from a borrowed grave to give us hope of a future that can not be imagined.  This is what is Christmas.  This can not be bought or sold.  This is the most extravagant gift.  This is the one gift of which we are all in need but not all accept.  It is the cure for every ill of man and the death of all evil.  What will we do with this Savior?  How will we celebrate this year?  Will we continue in our desire of stuff and demands of self?  I certainly hope not.  I hope that each of us will truly celebrate this miraculous birth in the proper way of amazement and wonder, with tears of sadness over sin and tears of joy over redemption, with a quiet and thankful heart for this priceless gift of salvation.  It is free and for all.

Merry Christmas!

I hope that you will go back to the top and enjoy the song that is attached.  It is not your traditional Christmas carol but it is the real reason for the season.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

When Circumstances Overwhelm

"I can bear it no more", my spirit cried.  "I beg for mercy, cry uncle, whatever it takes for this to end", my heart screams.  But my reply is a quite "don't you trust me?  I am working all things for your good."  And I scream back "It's not enough! I want no more of this.  I just want it to end."
Circumstances have overwhelmed me and there's nothing left in me physically, spiritually, and emotionally.  I am empty.  Even tears have ceased to come.  Overwhelmed!
"It came to pass...that the brook dried up."  1 Kings 17:7
I am there.  There is no hope in anything except in the Giver of all things.  The question is will he show up?  Will He provide for my ever present need?  Not just being by my side but actually provide for this tangible need?  Not can He but will he?  Will He withhold?  How much more?  So many questions and so few answers.
In spite of all these fears and questions, I have a hope that I can not explain.  It is a hope that will not let go of me.  I am bound by it.  No strength left, no desire left, nothing left but still bound to this hope that in spite of my limited vision, in spite of overwhelming circumstances, in spite of giving up...He is there.  And, for reasons I can not explain, it somehow becomes enough.
Where do I go from here when everything has changed and is changing still?  Why does He insist on this "Manna Living"?  I call it "Manna Living" because He tells us to ask for our "daily bread", not weekly or monthly, but daily.  This is not my way.  My way is planning, knowing what I will do tomorrow and the next and the next.  My way is what I dreamed for my life.  But now He has interrupted my plan with this "Manna Living".  Fighting it does no good because I can't win.  So where does this leave me?  It leaves me with learning to live a different way; a way that seems uncertain and unsure.  A way that only He can see the end and I can only see the dim light of the next step.  Sometimes this brings fear even though He says not to fear.  Sometimes it just makes me angry because, if the truth be known, I just want things my way.
These overwhelming, trying times force me to let go of the dross and hold only the pure.  In the end, I surrender my will to His because what is life without Him?
Overwhelming circumstances and Manna boils down to trust.  Am I going to trust and praise even when life is crashing down?

I have no idea if any of this makes sense to anyone but me.  This is just some notes that I have made over the past few weeks as the Lord continues to teach me what it means to live life His way.  But one thing is true, I have much to learn.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

God Does Not Give Me Anything That I Can't Handle Is a Lie

How many times have you said or heard the statement "God does not give you anything that you can't handle" ?  I have said it and I have heard it.  I see it all the time on friends Facebook pages.  How many of you realize that is a false statement?  My guess is not many since it is widely used.  This statement is usually spoken when someone's circumstances are trying and difficult.  But no where in God's Word is this statement found.  "Oh yes it is", you might say.  "1 Corinthians 10:13 says 'No temptations has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.'  See there it is; God will not give me anything that I can't handle."  Read that again.  This scripture is talking about temptations not circumstances, burdens, trials.  He will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we can bear.  Circumstances such as financial hardship, broken relationships, sickness, being hurt by others, and even death are all more than we can bear.  Ask any parent who has had to bury a child and I'm sure that they will tell you that that statement is false.
So what is that truth?  It is found in 2 Corinthians 1:8-9.  "We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia.  We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life.  Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death.  But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead."
The truth is that God does allow unbearable circumstances in our lives so that we will rely on Him and not ourselves, our own ability or strength.  Sometimes circumstances are beyond our control and sometimes they are a direct result of our own sin or the sin of others.  Regardless of how our circumstances came to be, we still need the power of God to overcome.  Let me interject this one thing; this only applies to those who are believers.  Who are true believers?  Those who have put their trust in Christ.  Those who have seen their sinful state in light of God's law and know that they are in great need of forgiveness.  Those who accept the truth about themselves apart from Christ and accept the free gift of forgiveness and redemption that is only found at the foot of the Cross.
Some may ask "if God is so loving, why would he allow painful circumstances to enter our lives?"  The answer is found in 2 Cor. 1:8-9, "that we might not rely on ourselves but on God".  I know that this may sound strange but when has anyone called out to God when things were going their way?  If we never encounter unpleasant or painful circumstances would we see our need of depending on God?  No, we would not.  Here is that simplest definition of sin:  living independently from God.  So adverse circumstances, things that are beyond our ability to bear push us toward the only God who is able to do all things, even raise the dead.  He wants us to live wholly dependent on Him.  Daily dependence is an impossible feat for us.  So we also depend on Him to give us the ability to live in dependence.  Our human nature screams "I want it my way and I want it now".  Learning to live dependent on God is a miracle.  It is learning what grace truly is. 
So my charge to you is this:  Stop saying God does not give you anything you can't handle.  He does give you many things that you can't handle apart from Him.  It is only to drive us to Him.  It is specifically to show us our need of Him and His grace and mercy.