Monthly Archives: December 2018
As we contemplate the upcoming year and make promises to ourselves to live better, love better and do better, it may benefit us to approach these promises in a different light.
What if, we decide to utilize our minds to be willfully in sync with God – to make a conscious choice to subordinate our will to His? What if we wake up each day and ask God to transform the way we think?
What if we actually live like Paul challenges the Christians in Rome to live?
And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Romans 12:1-2 New Living Translation
It is a choice to give our bodies to God as a living and holy sacrifice. Many of us make the same resolution year after year – to lose weight and get into shape. We try to do this by our own will power and fail. So why not ask God to intervene? Ask Him to give us a yearning for water instead of soda or beer. When grocery shopping, ask Him to help us enjoy the bounty of His earth instead of the pre-packaged, reconstituted substances found in the snack or frozen food aisles? When trying to motivate ourselves to exercise, ask God to show us a friend who could use encouragement and take a walk with them. Whatever our human weakness is, let us choose to ask God for guidance.
Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us. Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other. Romans 12:3-5
It is a choice to re-evaluate ourselves in terms of God’s standards. If we are successful at earning money, do we pat ourselves on the back and spend it on ourselves with no thought as to why we have been blessed with so much. Do we actually think that the possessions we have are ours or do we understand that everything we have was loaned to us by God? Have we ever sought God’s Will in how to spend it or use it?
It is a choice to recognize that gifts from God come in many forms and they have a Godly purpose. The key is to determine what we have been blessed with and how we are passing those blessings onto others so that they may be stronger in their journey of faith. As we build others up, we build up the Body of Christ.
It is a choice to understand that “we belong to each other”. As Christians, the same Holy Spirit in you is the same Holy Spirit in me. The Holy Spirit unites us as one. So when you suffer, I suffer – when you grieve, I grieve – when you are encouraged, I am encouraged. Why? . . . because we are connected as one through The Spirit with Jesus.
In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly. Romans 12:6-8
It is a choice to recognize the gifts God has given us and use them for His Glory. Let us re-evaluate our selfish thinking on the reason for the gifts and instead ask God to show us how to use the gifts for the encouragement and building up of His Body. Let us face each day, remembering that in the scope of eternity, this day is a new beginning. Let us ask God to strengthen us with the gifts we need in the moments we are in.
Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality. Romans 12:9-13
It is a choice to love others. It is a choice to seek out in prayer what someone else is in need of. It is a choice to ask the Holy Spirit to move in someone else’s life to bring them closer to Jesus – to ask that they be placed in circumstances so that they recognize their need of a Savior. It is love to intercede for someone else – to know and understand that Jesus died in our place so that we might have eternal life with Him.
Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!
Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.
Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the LORD.
Instead, “If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads.” Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good. Romans 12:14-21
It is a choice to throw off grumbling. It is a choice to view circumstances differently – which many times is a choice not to be offended. Accept that circumstances are not coincidence – that we are placed in this time and place to be used by God for His Glory. Don’t waste time planning to hurt someone – it never ends well!
It is a choice to recognize evil and flee from it. Let us choose to remove ourselves from situations that are not of God, praying continually for wisdom and discernment. Prior to evil attacking, we need to put on the full armor of God (Ephesians 6) and ask God to intervene with a song in our hearts and worship on our lips.
It is a choice to treat enemies with kindness. In our kindness, we may be the seed that causes the changes needed for a person to believe in Jesus. Never underestimate the power of the Holy Spirit to move in someone’s life!
Each of us is on our own unique journey, never before traveled by any other person. We cannot compare our journey to others; instead, we need to use the wisdom gained from our journey to encourage others on their journey, recognizing that we don’t have answers for them, only a way to encourage them to find their own answers through God.
This year, may we resolve to seek God and His direction as we face each new day. Let us shrug off our own will and let God replace it with His Will.
Remember . . . Rejoice . . . and be Renewed . . . for Our God is Love. Choose Love.
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6 King James 2000
To believe or not to believe – that is the question of this Christmas Season.
The simple truth is that God draws us to himself (John 6:44). Then it is up to each of us to choose to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God and that by believing we may have life in his name. John 20:29-31. This choice is an act of our will and it is a choice to believe that God sent to us a Messiah and His Name is Jesus.
If we make this choice to believe, then we have made a conscious decision of our “will”. As we journey in our faith, we must constantly choose to harness our will to be in line with that of God.
It is a choice of obedience. It is a choice of recognition that our will is trumped by His Will. His Will for us many times is determined through the reading of His Word, through prayer, through faith, through seeking and trusting that what He makes known to us is sufficient. And sometimes, it is an act of our will to accept that He has chosen not to reveal the “why” of something but we trust that it will be made known to us later – maybe not until we reach Heaven. During these times, it is an act of our will, to choose to trust that His plan for us is always good. (Jeremiah 29:11)
It is a choice of freedom – freedom from the false idea that we are in control of our own destiny. When we trust in Jesus as our Messiah, we acknowledge that He is in control and He can solve the pressing issues that surround us – our job is to believe that He is up for the task and to exhibit the fruit of His Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self control. Galatians 5:22-23
It is a choice of faith – to leap into darkness knowing God will provide – that nothing we have is ours, but instead it is His, on loan, to us for His determined period of time, to be used by us for His Glory.
It is a choice with consequences – consequences which are always eternally good but ones that come with trouble and heartache. Jesus told us that “in this world there would be trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33).
And so, it is a choice with struggles. It is a struggle to keep our eyes on Jesus and not to succumb to our own will. It is a struggle to stand firm against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 6:12.
It is a choice with Heavenly back-up. We are instructed to tell satan to “get behind us” – Why? Because God has our back and He will deal with satan. Our job is to put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. Ephesians 6:13-18
It is a choice which opens up untold adventures – untold opportunities for seeing miraculous events in ordinary lives.
It is the choice of life over death – the only choice with a promise of eternal life – life that will continue after our earthly death – life that has been forged by the death of Jesus, the one without sin who became sin for us thus substituting his perfection for our imperfections making us acceptable to God and therefore providing us with entry into Heaven.
As we celebrate the Birth of The Messiah, let us contemplate our choice. If we have not made the right choice, let us reconsider and make the correct one. If we have made the correct choice, then let us strengthen ourselves in that choice by submitting our will to His – opening our hearts to receive God’s message for us in this day.
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Luke 2:8-12
God has chosen shepherds before. Moses was a shepherd who was tending his sheep when he came upon a burning bush. David learned critical lessons as a shepherd that gave him the ability to knock down a giant. Jesus is described as the “Good Shepherd”.
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. John 10:11-13
It is not a coincidence that God chose the shepherds to be the first to hear the Good News about the birth of Christ. It is not a coincidence that he chose people who could withstand the hardships of living outside in the cold and heat with the continual threat of wild animals while all the while protecting creatures who could not protect themselves. It is not a coincidence that God uses those who are able to hear His voice, see His miracles, and follow His direction.
Remember the Story – Remember what happened. Remember what the Shepherds did after they heard the Good News.
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told. Luke 2:13-20
What was the aftermath of the sharing of the Good News?
The Shepherds sought out the truth of the revelation. When they had confirmed the miracle, they spread the word and then glorified God!
They did not dismiss the revelation from God but instead acted upon it. They did not sit on the Good News as if it was selfishly meant just for them. They did not use it for their own personal gain! They simply and excitedly shared it with others and then glorified God.
When was the last time we shared the Good News with anyone? When was the last time we enthusiastically expressed the joy of the birth of Christ with others? When was the last time we truly Glorified God?
As we proceed through Advent, lets challenge ourselves and each other in the midst of the celebrations to celebrate like the shepherds – enthusiastically sharing the Good News of the birth of Christ – plus the rest of the Story – that Christ died and is resurrected and will come AGAIN!
Jesus asked, “Do you finally believe? But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when you will be scattered, each one going his own way, leaving me alone. Yet I am not alone because the Father is with me. I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” John 16:31-33
As we celebrate the coming of the birth of Jesus, many of us are pulled in many different directions – leaving Jesus out of our preparations for Christmas. But at the heart of the Christmas celebration is the understanding that God humbled himself and came into this world as a baby – a baby with a purpose.
The religious scholars at the time of Jesus’ birth were looking for a Messiah – a King – a powerful leader that would free them from oppression. They were looking for someone to put them in power and establish them in comfort. And even though Jesus has freed all those who believe from oppression, the religious scholars were looking for someone else, not Baby Jesus.
What are we looking for? Who do we think Jesus is? Can we wrap our heads around the fact that Jesus was sent by God to conquer death and sin by dying a physical death on the Cross and rising from the dead in victory to be with God?
Are we looking for a Jesus whose purpose is to heal, comfort and defend us? One who takes us out of our troubles? One who is merely a sounding board for our wants and desires?
Remember who Jesus is – not who we might want Him to be.
Jesus came to save us from sin and death, to forge a pathway for us to eternal life with Him in Heaven and to send the Holy Spirit to help us navigate in this world. He shows us what love is by laying His life down to save us from certain death.
He did not come so that we could be comfortable or satisfied or free from troubles. Remember His words, “In this world you will have trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
If all we know is comfort and satisfaction, we have no need for a Savior. It is through troubles that we gain an understanding of grace. We learn about obedience and self-control. We gain empathy and wisdom. We gain faith and are filled with hope.
So remember, who Jesus is. Our understanding starts with BELIEVING that He is who He says that He is. Remember that trials and tribulations are part of our journey of understanding. With this understanding, we experience His peace – the peace that surpasses all understanding!
I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one can come to the Father except through me. John 14:5 NLT
Be Still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10
In our journey walking with God during our short stay on this earth, He is teaching us critical lessons for eternal living – lessons dealing with Loving Him, Loving others, pride, self-sufficiency, obedience, etc.
These lessons are critical and for many of us, are cyclical in nature. Not all of us struggle with the same lesson; some “get it” on the first encounter with a particular lesson while others are “stuck” for years dealing with the same critical instruction. Regardless of whether we are in a season of being “stuck” or are moving from one lesson to the next, God is using each moment of every day to assist us in our journey closer to Him.
Each day, we can be sharpened. Each day we can learn something new or experience a deepening of an understanding that we have known for quite sometime. Sometimes, we are called in obedience to help someone else in their journey.
When we become followers of Jesus Christ, we become saints – chosen by God – set free by His Son and filled with His Spirit to bring Him glory today and for all eternity. We must therefore, seek Him in the moment we are in to determine what we are to be doing. Just as God uses others to sharpen us, we are also called at times to sharpen others.
As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend. Proverbs 27:17
To be called to sharpen another believer is a great responsibility. When we know we are being called to be a sharpening tool, we must seek the help of the Holy Spirit in the process of the sharpening – remembering that God can use us in any situation. Our job is to “Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.” Ephesians 6:18
If you are being used by God in someone else’s journey, make sure that you are walking in step with the Lord and seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Remember, eternal living starts today.