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Remembering the Reason

Isaiah 9:6- “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, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”

Today is what is known as Cyber Monday. We have already had Black Friday and Shop Local Saturday. The holiday season is in full swing. 

My Christmas tree is up. The lights have been strung on pretty much anything that will stand still long enough to receive them. The presents that I have purchased have been wrapped. The snow village is up. The calendar is quickly filling with party dates. Christmas cookies are on my mind. 

And then there is the other stuff like school soccer season is in full swing. Competition cheer is getting ready to gear up. My birthday is coming up and so is my son’s. Midterms will be here in 3 weeks for the kids – that means the studying will viciously commence. 

But in all this hustle and bustle and crazy, busy schedules…oh Lord help me not to forget why we celebrate. Help me not to forget why. 

Under my television, the focal point of just about any house (besides the kitchen), is the nativity scene. I put it there on purpose. I want a constant reminder of what this season is really all about – the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. 

It is way too easy to get caught up in the lights and the gifts and the decorations and the parties and the food. I need that constant reminder that this is the time of year that we celebrate and remember all that Jesus has done for us. He is the Wonderful. He is the Counselor. He is the Mighty God. He is the Everlasting Father. He is the Prince of Peace. He was our sacrifice. He bore our sin. And He did it all out of love. That is what Christmas is all about.

So as you go through your day today, listening to Christmas music, thinking about gifts and admiring all the lights and decorations, don’t forget why it is all out there – Jesus. Jesus is the Reason for the Season.

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Pancakes and a 5K

Isaiah 40:31 – “But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”

This weekend, my family and I participated in a 5K – a pancake 5K at that! It was a lot of fun. We were able to run through a really nice neighborhood and have some yummy pancakes afterwards.

But oh my, that afternoon and Sunday came. And boy, were me and my husband feeling it! Stairs became our mortal enemy. As long as we weren’t asked to move, we were fine. But getting up, no fun at all. Yet, we survived. We had some good laughs over it and we persevered. 

Now, my son, on the other hand, played a soccer game after running that 5K and did an amazing job. My daughter was able to finally accomplish her first backhand spring yesterday after church at her lesson. They didn’t seem to have near the challenge that my husband and I did with our little adventure.

You know, God oftentimes asks us to get outside our comfort zone and do something we don’t normally do. He asks us to stretch our faith. We sometimes think that this stretching and growing is too much to ask. There is no way. We limit God and try to get ahead of Him. But when we are willing to wait on Him and allow Him to stretch us in ways we never dreamed possible, amazing things begin to happen in our life. We find that the challenge wasn’t near what we thought it would be. We find that we are seeing and experiencing God in a whole new light and way. We find that there is time to get it all done. And when we lay our head on our pillow at night, we have a peace that is beyond understanding.

Following Christ is a challenge. It is not easy. Anyone who tells you otherwise…well, let’s just say I would think twice about listening to them. 

This week, get out of your comfort zone and listen to what God is telling you to do. Read His word and learn His principles. Then, when you are asked to move, you are ready. 

Praise the Lord

Isaiah 9:6 -“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, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”

I was listening to one of my favorite artist yesterday, Crowder. His music is very raw and really hits home to me. He has a song called, “Praise the Lord.” When you first hear the lyrics, they sound almost disrespectful, but if you keep listening, you hear the real message. Here is the gist of it.

How do you see Jesus? Do you see Him as a magic 8-ball that you occasionally ask a question to? Do you use Jesus as a gun, shooting down thoughts and feelings that are different from your own? Do you swing Him like a hammer, forcing your ideas and beliefs upon someone else? Do you keep Him under the steeple or in the Book? Or do you use Him as a prescription – only when something is wrong?

That is not Who Jesus is. That is not His purpose or His plan for you. Praise the Lord.

Sometimes we think that His love is more of a river rather than an ocean. Narrow and wide, deep and shallow, we fear that it will run away. But His love is more of an ocean that is vast and deep and constant. Others might think of His love as a song, wrapped up with a neat beginning and ending. But His love is more like a symphony that is filled with all kinds of notes and instruments that is woven together to create the most beautiful melody.

We try to make God’s love so difficult, so challenging. But Jesus is way more than we can ever imagine if we just let Him love us and be Who He is supposed to be in our life.

When we consider Jesus and who He should be in our life, we need to remember that He is endless – He always has been. I don’t think we can ever truly grasp it. It is a mystery that will one day be revealed when we are with Him. But the decision to be with Him needs to be a joyful choice, not a fearful leap. 

I think that too often we try to put Jesus in our neat little box or use Him as a weapon to drive fear and coercion into people. That’s not Who He is. Jesus isn’t a genie in a lamp or a lightening bolt throwing being or a fair weather friend. No, Jesus is so much more than that – Praise the Lord.

Jesus is The Leader. Jesus is Wonderful. Jesus is The caring Counselor. Jesus is The Mighty God. Jesus is My Everlasting Father. Jesus is The Prince of Peace. Praise the Lord.

A “re”newed view

Isaiah 53:5 – “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.”

I teach the teenagers on Wednesday night at church. These last few weeks we have been going through the student version of “A Case for Christ”. And let me tell you, tonight’s lesson is going to be tough. I debated skipping it but I feel that as tough as it will be, my kids need to hear it. All of it. So instead of trying to determine a witty presentation of the subject matter, I’m just going to read it. 

I have to. There is nothing witty or clever about the transgressions committed against my Jesus. 

In our society, we are okay with watching movies that are gruesome and horrible. We read books that give us nightmares. We watch videos on social media that terrify us. But to careful consider the torment and brutality of what Jesus went through for us, well, that’s another story. We can’t take it. It hurts too much. 

I think that when we stop and look into history about the torture methods and ways  a death sentence was carried out in the Roman culture, we can’t help but feel burdened and grateful and incredibly sad. We hear periodically about Jesus being “wounded” for our transgressions. I don’t think that begins to scratch the surface. 

Jesus was brutally tortured for my sin. Jesus was beaten beyond recognition for my sin. Jesus was humiliated on the cross for my sin. Jesus felt the weight of His own body through the nails piercing His hands/wrists for my sin. Jesus endured what can only be described as suffocation and His organs shutting down very slowly for my sin. And I know that if I was the only person in history that would ever accept His sacrifice, He would still have done it – for me. 

And that is powerful. 

With each touch of the whip, He thought of all those through time that would choose Him as their Savior. With each agonizing moment on that cross, He thought about each life that would be drastically changed because of His act of selfless love. 

Do you think about that? Do you consider that when work piles up? Do you think about that while your folding laundry for the ump-teenth time this week? Do you consider His sacrifice and love for each and every one of us when that nut monkey cuts you off in traffic?

Probably not. I know I don’t. But I should. I believe that if we would live our life redeemed and grateful for His sacrifice, our world would change. Fear would leave. Doubt would run and hide. Compassion would be as common place as anything you can think of. 

But it’s so much easier to turn our thoughts away from Him. It’s so much easier to forget. 

I want to encourage you today to take a moment and read about His suffering. I want you to think about His sacrifice. I want you to say “thank you” and mean it from a place in your heart that is torn and burdened. 

Out of the hole

Isaiah 40:29 – “He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength.”

It’s been a long week – and it’s only Wednesday. I’m playing the role of one man taxi driver for a household. My heart goes out to single parents. It’s rough to not have another hand to reach out to!

Yesterday I spent 2 and a half hours driving, non-stop. We were 45 minutes from home and 1 mile away from the soccer field when they cancelled practice because of rain and lightning. Ugh! 

On the way home, my son, bless his sweet little heart, did his best to try and cheer me up. But God love him, I was so sick of driving and hangry (that’s hungry AND upset) that it was mission impossible. 

But as I sat outside the dance studio waiting for my daughter to complete her class with my belly full and my work done, the clouds started to break and a tiny bit of light blue sky could be seen. The rain was over.  People were beginning to come out of their shelter from the much needed rain and things began to look better. Yes, I was STILL in the car but hope was on the horizon. 

You know, some days we feel we get jipped in the needs department. Our “poor little me” attitude comes out for a pity party and we gladly welcome it in. 

But then you come across this verse. It reminds me that when I try and do things myself and rely upon my own strength, that “pity party” me comes out to play. And she’s not very much fun. When I rely upon solely upon the strength from my Savior, He lifts me up. He makes the clouds break and encourages me to come out of my hole. 

So let me encourage you today to draw your strength solely from Jesus. He’s the only One who can keep you from fainting at life. 

HE IS STILL IN CONTROL

Isaiah 41:10 – “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.”

Matthew 6:34 – “Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.”

Isaiah 14:24 – “The LORD of hosts hath sworn, saying, Surely as I have thought, so shall it come to pass; and as I have purposed, so shall it stand”

So for the last few days, everyone has asked me, “What do you think about the election?” My response has been, “God is still in control.” A few people have come back with a “Really?” But yesterday, one lady, who is through her lineage a Jew, said to me, “You really believe He is still in control? I’m not so sure.”

I. Was. Heartbroken. I don’t understand how anyone could question whether or not God is in control. But when someone who professes to be a Jew and knowing their heritage and all that God has done for them says to me “Really?”, I am troubled. 

Whether or not you are happy or sad or burdened or depressed or concerned about the way things are going right now, God is in control. He always has been and He always will be. Crazy people may rule the land. (They have been, right?)   Fanatics may be throwing temper tantrums in the street. Extremist may be marching around trying to intimidate everyone. But GOD IS STILL IN CONTROL!  

I think the most troubling thing about some of the discussions where people question whether or not He is still in control is this – where is their hope? I HAVE to believe that He is still in control. Otherwise, I think in would curl up in a ball in the corner and wait out the rapture. He is my hope. Knowing that He is in control gets me out of bed and gets me through dealing with crazy people. It is what puts one foot in front of the other. 

My hope, my trust, my comfort is solely in Jesus Christ my Savior. As the old song goes, “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. I dare not trust a sweeter strain but wholly lean on Jesus’ name. On Christ the solid rock I stand. All other ground is sinking sand. All other ground is sinking sand.”

Proclaiming on purposeĀ 

Isaiah 55:11 – “So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.”

It has been revival week this week. And man, have we been challenged! 

In my heart and mind, our speaker has been really focusing on sharing the Gospel with others. God is really wanting to get that ball rolling. 

I fail at this. I try to live my life so that others will see Him. I read my Bible trying to listen to what He says. I pray and talk to Him about so many things. But I don’t share Him with others like I’m supposed to. And I’ve touched on this before – it is because of fear. I know that if I would just share Him one time, the next time would be easier. It’s just taking that first step. 

I don’t know what I’m afraid of – God said that His word would not return void. He can use all of my bumbling and fear and turn it into something marvelous if I would just take the first step. 

Look at moving day – you plan for it, you prepare for it, you psyche yourself up for it and then you have to do it. There is no choice when the van arrives – you have to do it. 

Sometimes I wish sharing the Gospel was like that – when the opportunity arises, you just have to do it, there’s no way to get out of it. But it’s not. You have to chose to proclaim Him. You have to do it on purpose. 

We have been encouraged this week to talk to the person at the gas pump about Jesus. Holy man! That scares me like nothing else! There can be some creepy people at the gas pump. And we hear all about weirdos that say and do things that are questionable. Want more excuses? I have a bucket full of them. But being “creepy” and a “weirdo” is my perception of them. God sees someone who needs Him. And God sees me needing to be obedient. 

Like everything else, it is a choice. It is a choice to be obedient. It is a choice to take that first scary step. It is a choice to proclaim on purpose. It is a choice to see others like Jesus sees them. 

Proclaiming on purpose. It is a challenge we all need to accept in our life. This world has loads of people needing to hear the Good News of Jesus Christ. They are hurting and scared and needing Someone to hold onto. They need Jesus. They need me to proclaim Him on purpose.