Monthly Archives: December 2019

A New Year’s Letter

And now, here’s what I want you to do: Tell the truth, when you speak. Do the right thing by one another, both personally and in your courts. Don’t cook up plans to take unfair advantage of others. Don’t do or say what isn’t so. I hate all that stuff. Keep your lives simple and honest.” Decree of God. Zechariah 8:15-17 The Message

How is your most intimate relationship doing? Do you need to have a conversation? Do you need to tell the truth to someone? If so, remember this: The Holy Spirit works through truth. Although speaking the truth can be difficult, truth, spoken in love, will have an impact in God’s Kingdom.

Example of truth by letter followed by conversation:

My dearest:

 I am writing this letter because, for me, it is sometimes easier to write then to speak. Let me start by saying I am your biggest fan. I love you more than anyone, except God. Nothing I say here is a criticism. I am only trying to address my struggling and our relationship because I want it to be the best it can be. I don’t want to argue, I want to discuss and brainstorm with you.

 I know you need time to process these types of conversations. So, I thought it might be good to think about these things ahead of discussing them in person. When we are both ready (meaning within the next week) can we set a time to speak – preferably when we are not tired, preoccupied or grumpy.

 I am struggling and have tried to figure out why. I have prayed and sat with God looking for His wisdom not my own. I think He has provided me with some. So here is what the major issues are:

  1. I need your companionship. We are in a new place in life – I want to go do stuff with you when you are not tired or preoccupied. Thanksgiving/Christmas was difficult – I missed you being here (or your involvement or your joy or _____________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________________________________.) I need to be with you mentally – I need to know we are in the same “book”, not necessarily in the same chapter but at least in the same book.
  2. Spiritual Connectedness. So speaking about being in the same book, I feel like we are not spiritually together most of the time. Knowing and loving God is my top priority. You and my family are my second priority. I hope God is also your first priority ahead of me – if He is not then we have a problem. The problem is that we then don’t view life in the same way – what we want to do and where we want to go and what we want to spend money on is not in sync with each other.
  3. I need your help with our finances. We are blessed – truly blessed but I am under extreme pressure to make it all work. I don’t want to be in charge of all this. Can we talk about _____________ ________________________.  All this stuff I need help with. We need to do this together.
  4. My work and your work. Our work schedules don’t compliment each other. We need to coordinate that together. _____________________ _______________________________ _______________________________. These are important to me. We need us to figure this out together.

 In order for me to feel connected to you, we need to have a mature adult on- going loving conversation about these issues. When I am connected to you, I enjoy our relationship. I will never stop loving you. I want you to succeed. I want us to succeed. It is my top priority besides following Jesus.

 I love you.

The Gift

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  John 3:16 NIV

We can get carried away with the “warm, fuzzy” story we tell our young children about the birth of Jesus and in the process lose the whole reason for celebration. It is the harsh reality of that birth, life and death that actually saves our children and us.

Nothing is “warm and fuzzy” about His birth in a stable, in the cold, without medical assistance in an occupied territory to a mother pregnant before marriage. Nothing is “warm and fuzzy” about the powerful seeking to kill Jesus and in the process killing hundreds of other children. Nothing is “warm and fuzzy” about fleeing a country because of persecution and living in a foreign land.

Frankly, there is nothing “warm and fuzzy” about God giving us His one and only Son. From a human perspective, only a few of us come close to comprehending that sacrifice but all of us must try. For it is in the trying, that God speaks to our hearts to help us understand His miraculous gift – the “gift” that Saves our Souls – the Gift that forges a pathway to Heaven and eternal life.

That is what our celebration is about . . . God saving us through His Son Jesus Christ.

And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person’s failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him. John 3:17-18 The Message*

 So . . . what gift are we giving this Christmas to those God has entrusted to us?

*Scripture quotations marked MSG are taken from THE MESSAGE, copyright © 1993, 2002, 2018 by Eugene H. Peterson. Used by permission of NavPress. All rights reserved. Represented by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

You are God taught!

Paul’s words to the people of Thessalonica over 1950 years ago could have been written to us! Are we living to please God? In our everyday life, is that thought paramount in our hearts and minds?

One final word, friends. We ask you—urge is more like it—that you keep on doing what we told you to do to please God, not in a dogged religious plod, but in a living, spirited dance. You know the guidelines we laid out for you from the Master Jesus. God wants you to live a pure life.  Keep yourselves from sexual promiscuity.

Learn to appreciate and give dignity to your body, not abusing it, as is so common among those who know nothing of God.

Don’t run roughshod over the concerns of your brothers and sisters. Their concerns are God’s concerns, and he will take care of them. We’ve warned you about this before. God hasn’t invited us into a disorderly, unkempt life but into something holy and beautiful—as beautiful on the inside as the outside.

If you disregard this advice, you’re not offending your neighbors; you’re rejecting God, who is making you a gift of his Holy Spirit. 1Thes 4:1-8 MSG*

Remember this advice over the next several weeks, when you are distracted by the pressures of Christmas and year-end events – when you are indulging in ways that may be taken to extremes. This is not a time to turn from God but a critical time to turn to him.

Regarding life together and getting along with each other, you don’t need me to tell you what to do. You’re God-taught in these matters. Just love one another! You’re already good at it; your friends all over the province of Macedonia are the evidence. Keep it up; get better and better at it. 1 Thes 4:9-10 MSG*

“We are God-taught”. Let that sink in as you contemplate your relationships with your family and friends. Sit with God and ask for His guidance for you in loving them.

Stay calm; mind your own business; do your own job. You’ve heard all this from us before, but a reminder never hurts. We want you living in a way that will command the respect of outsiders, not lying around sponging off your friends. 1 Thes 4:11-12 MSG*

As we schedule our activities during the next several weeks, let us keep in mind that in order to stay calm we need to seek the One who has advise for us. In the seeking, our focus will be on the things of God and will keep our minds from taking us into “business” which is not for us.

Remember . . . let us truly contemplate and celebrate Christ in this day and the days to come. We know how. We have already been “God-taught”.

*Scripture quotations marked MSG are taken from THE MESSAGE, copyright © 1993, 2002, 2018 by Eugene H. Peterson. Used by permission of NavPress. All rights reserved. Represented by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

Pressure free . . . please!

So when we set aside our own maneuvering, what wisdom do we glean from our walk with the Holy Spirit? Do we open up opportunities for others because we have not maneuvered a situation? Do we allow God to handle a situation that we “knew” we were “right” about and just had to let someone know? Do we actually relieve our own pressure valve by allowing God to take control of our day?

Paul has this to say about it:

We, of course, have plenty of wisdom to pass on to you once you get your feet on firm spiritual ground, but it’s not popular wisdom, the fashionable wisdom of high-priced experts that will be out-of-date in a year or so.

God’s wisdom is something mysterious that goes deep into the interior of his purposes. You don’t find it lying around on the surface. It’s not the latest message, but more like the oldest—what God determined as the way to bring out his best in us, long before we ever arrived on the scene.

The experts of our day haven’t a clue about what this eternal plan is. If they had, they wouldn’t have killed the Master of the God-designed life on a cross. That’s why we have this Scripture text:

No one’s ever seen or heard anything like this,
Never so much as imagined anything quite like it—
What God has arranged for those who love him.

But you’ve seen and heard it because God by his Spirit has brought it all out into the open before you.

The Spirit, not content to flit around on the surface, dives into the depths of God, and brings out what God planned all along. Who ever knows what you’re thinking and planning except you yourself?

The same with God—except that he not only knows what he’s thinking, but he lets us in on it. God offers a full report on the gifts of life and salvation that he is giving us. We don’t have to rely on the world’s guesses and opinions. We didn’t learn this by reading books or going to school; we learned it from God, who taught us person-to-person through Jesus, and we’re passing it on to you in the same firsthand, personal way.

The unspiritual self, just as it is by nature, can’t receive the gifts of God’s Spirit. There’s no capacity for them. They seem like so much silliness.

Spirit can be known only by spirit—God’s Spirit and our spirits in open communion. Spiritually alive, we have access to everything God’s Spirit is doing, and can’t be judged by unspiritual critics. Isaiah’s question, “Is there anyone around who knows God’s Spirit, anyone who knows what he is doing?” has been answered: Christ knows, and we have Christ’s Spirit. 1 Corinthians 2:6-16  MSG*

Remember . . . Whenever God’s Will is in complete control, He removes all pressure. Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, December 1.

May we have a pressure-free day filled with God’s Spirit, unscripted by unspiritual critics, peace-filled without our maneuvering.

*Scripture quotations marked MSG are taken from THE MESSAGE, copyright © 1993, 2002, 2018 by Eugene H. Peterson. Used by permission of NavPress. All rights reserved. Represented by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

our maneuvering vs. Holy Spirit Movement

How about a day of no maneuvering – a day that you do not zig this way to get one more thing done or zag that way to avoid some confrontation? A day free from planning what you are going to do in response to something someone else may do.

How about a day that is purely unscripted – that you do not change this appointment to allow you additional time to go somewhere else?

How about a day that does not feel squished – you know a day that just flows from moment to moment not hurried but filled?

You’ll remember, friends, that when I first came to you to let you in on God’s master stroke, I didn’t try to impress you with polished speeches and the latest philosophy. I deliberately kept it plain and simple: first Jesus and who he is; then Jesus and what he did—Jesus crucified.

I was unsure of how to go about this, and felt totally inadequate—I was scared to death, if you want the truth of it—and so nothing I said could have impressed you or anyone else. But the Message came through anyway. God’s Spirit and God’s power did it, which made it clear that your life of faith is a response to God’s power, not to some fancy mental or emotional footwork by me or anyone else. 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 MSG*

What about a day, focused on God, in sync with His Spirit, knowing minute by minute that you walk with Christ whose blood poured out for you?

For in our maneuvering, do we miss what God has planned for us – do we miss opportunities to respond to God’s power? Do we miss the movement of the Holy Spirit?

*Scripture quotations marked MSG are taken from THE MESSAGE, copyright © 1993, 2002, 2018 by Eugene H. Peterson. Used by permission of NavPress. All rights reserved. Represented by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

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